|Georgia O'Keeffe at Abiquiu|
When we were young I suppose we thought everyone had this kind of friends. But over the years we have learned that we were unique, privileged to have bonded to one another in our girlhood, and blessed to have continued that deep friendship for all of our days.
In the past few years we have discussed what we’re going to do when we can no longer live independently. We’ve toyed around with various ideas—getting a purple house on the water, finding a place in Arizona, all living in the same senior living community somewhere. We talk about having on call a full-time massage therapist and an excellent chef. We need good medical facilities nearby and an airport. The climate must be temperate and the cost of living reasonable. Those of us who have children wonder what role our kids will play. Those who have husbands (in the minority, I must mention) might be encouraged to dump the men—men will simply complicate things much too much. Just as they have for the past 50 years.
Over the weekend I had an extended conversation with one of these women, the one I’ve known the longest, since elementary school. She swears that we’ll figure out some way to be together in our waning years. And she said we must have a real plan by the time we’re 70. Shocking—that’s less than five years away. I have no idea how to plan this. It took us two years to find a date and a location for a weekend together. How will we ever agree on our living arrangements for the rest of our lives? Difficult but not impossible.
I thought about how we were together in Catholic girls’ school, how the lives of the nuns in the convent connected to our school seemed so foreign to us. Recently we’ve seen photos of the nun—Mother St. Louis—who was the principal of our high school. I understand Mother Louis is nearly 100 years old now and she is in hospice care, living in a convent for retired nuns. In the photos, Mother Louis is bed-ridden, but alert and smiling peacefully. So when we were young high school girls, we thought the communal life of these nuns was strange. But now we’re moving toward creating a life like that for ourselves.
I imagine myself living like Georgia O’Keeffe. In a sense she lived her later years like a nun—simply, quietly, dressed in black. (My favorite Georgia O’Keeffe story is what she did when her husband, the photographer Alfred Stiegliz, died. Before he was to be buried she stayed up all night, tearing out the satin lining in his coffin and replacing it with simple white linen. I totally get it.) So I can live with these other women who are so dear to me, in a community. I can wear simple black clothes, like nuns and Georgia O’Keeffe. I can live with the others who never thought they would be living in a community, never to be compared to nuns. To the best of my ability, I’ll walk in the sunshine, read my Bible, eat bread, drink wine, and grow old with the girls. Lord willing.