One month ago today a friend of mine died. She was 94 years old and by all reports had a rich and full life. I first came to know her just a few days after her ninety-third birthday so what I knew of her life I learned when she told me her stories.
She and I visited almost every Friday afternoon in the hour and a half before they served dinner in her residence. It was a good time to go because the day for her had been long but when I left she was ready to join the other diners. She would leave me to bound up the stairs (literally…I couldn’t keep up with her) and cross over to the other building so she could avoid the crunch in the elevators. She didn’t like to go down too early and have to wait for a long time, but she definitely didn’t want to be late.
I say we visited most every Friday because I didn’t see her at all during the summers; she went to Montana in early June and stayed until late August. She loved Montana. It was where she was born and raised, along with her many siblings. From the time she was knee-high to a grasshopper, she spent the summers with her family on the lake. At first it was just an outdoor campsite, but as more children came along and her father sought refuge fishing and hiking, her mother made it clear that she needed walls and a roof to house them. So, Ms. Tobin’s father built a cabin. And despite the destruction of that place and the relocation to a new spot higher on the lake (what a story that was!), she returned there every summer, eventually with her own brood.
And this summer was no different. When she packed to go back in June, I stopped by to see if there was anything she needed. She was up to her elbows trying to sort and sift. Her daughter and her family were going to pick her up on their way from Kansas City and Ms. Tobin didn’t want to take up too much room. The air crackled with excitement as she considered the right sweater, which jewelry, how many socks. We didn’t even sit down to talk as she was busy with her preparations. She had notified her residence of the date she would leave so they wouldn’t worry when she didn’t show up for dinner; she had organized her papers and pictures. When we parted, I hugged her and gave her the French bisous as was our custom. She took my hands in hers and thanked me for coming and for being her friend. I wished her a bon voyage and said I looked forward to hearing all the stories of her summer when she returned. She waved and blew a kiss. She was ready to go.
The next thing I heard was that someone had called from Montana to say that she ill and asked if her name could be added to the prayer chain. I worried that this was ominous news but waited to hear more. Finally on the twelfth of August as no updates had been forthcoming, I felt like I just had to know how she was and called her son who lived nearby. There was no answer so I left a message. He called back the next day; she died the day that I had called.
It’s sad to think that I won’t see Ms. Tobin again. I will miss her stories of Montana, the adventures of her childhood, how she played the organ in Gunnison, when she become a sorority mother, how she built the new cabin, the happenings of her children and grandchildren; but what a blessing that she was able to return to spend the summer on the lake with her family one last time.
Ms. Tobin loved God and her family. And I loved Ms. Tobin.
2 thoughts on “Ms. Tobin”
I hope that someone recorded Mrs. Tobin’s recollections before she passed away. She represented that transition era from a near-pioneer lifestyle to the cyber-age. Meanwhile what lovely memories you have of even a short friendship. Thanks for sharing.
Several people have encouraged me to write up the stories that I heard; I hope that I will, especially about her cabin in Montana. Perhaps her family will do the same. Thanks for writing, Claire.
It was a gift to get to know Ms. Tobin.