WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY FRIEND JUDY?
My dear friend Judy and I met in the linoleum corridors of our therapy agency in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Without exaggeration, she was the most brilliant woman I knew and a damn good therapist, too. For some reason, she liked me.
"Ruthie," she said one time, "you are so damn likeable."
Her son, Michael, had been badgering her to move to Boulder, Colorado, in her retirement years. None of her friends wanted her to leave: Not Donna, whom Judy encouraged to remarry after living with a very sick man her whole life, or Sandy, a librarian at the Grundy Library in Bristol.
These were our stomping grounds back then and we knew every inch of the territory.
When Judy retired, she became a gardener. Every ounce of her backyard was filled with plants: coleus, with its patterned leaves; salvia, a deep blue like the ocean; and many plants she bought at Wankel's Nursery.
A small reflecting pond resided in the middle of the garden. After much thinking, she decided not to add goldfish, lest they freeze to death in our cold winters.
Animals, too, frequented her jardin. Clay ones. Squirrels sitting upright. A few birds looking so real you thought they'd fly away.
Judy would finally capitulate to her son Michael.
One summer day she would drive her silver Nissan Maxima all the way from her home on Arundal Way to Boulder, Colorado. Her whining cat "Missy" was in her cage in the back seat. She suffered from kidney disease, the same as people do.
Her move to Boulder would be the death of her.
Don't tell her or she never would have left.
Maybe, after all, she would have, in deference to the son she so loved. She didn't get along with his wife.
Meantime, her handsome black-haired son Michael brought me her white wicker porch furniture and placed them gently on my back porch.
It's still there. Often, I'll take a book out there and simply read and meditate. Birds would often perch on the outside screen until they lost their balance and fell off.
Her colorful planter went near the steps in my front yard. It's still there, filled with frozen water. In the spring it will come alive with wildflowers.
Judy had loved throwing parties at her townhouse, which had a mailbox painted with a pineapple.
Once I remember her standing with the door open to the patio, a cigarette in one hand, a Pepsi in the other. Her round table was filled with hors d'oeuvres: spinach dip with crackers, Girl Scout Cookies - Thin Mints - her homemade lasagna - and paper plates for all.
That woman could cook!
The jazz station - WRTI-FM - was playing "BP with the GM" - Bob Perkins with the Good Music. I met him by chance at my supermarket when I complimented the dashiki he was wearing and called up Judy immediately in Boulder.
A polymath, there was nothing that woman didn't know. Emotionally, though, she was immature, yelling fiercely at several neighbors. I heard her and it was shameful, embarrassing.
Because I loved her, I forgave her everything. Almost everything, that is.
She despised Boulder. The far-off mountains engulfed her as if she were in prison.
Mishaps aplenty filled her waning life. Driving her car down the byzantine streets, she got lost, and sat sobbing on the shoulder of the road. A cop stopped her, gave her a ticket and forbad her to drive again until she took driving lessons.
"Me?" she said ironically. "Driving lessons in my eighties?"
The dread of every elder: losing their ability to drive.
Her friends were more than happy to drive her, as was her son, Michael. He would take her to fine restaurants and they would chat for several hours. She always liked a martini with a twist of lemon, my brave Judy.
Her friend Marie and I became friends after Judy left.
An email arrived from Marie one morning. Hmm, wonder what she wants.
The word "suicide" popped onto my screen.
Good God, why?
Judy had done the deed. She had euthanized her cat Missy and then took her own life. Michael of course found her.
Damn you, Judy! Damn you! An atheist, she told me she didn't believe in an afterlife.
In a parallel universe, I would be there at her townhouse in Boulder, grabbed her pills, Elavil, perhaps, which was quite toxic, taken them to the window of her third story condo, and tossed them onto the sidewalk.
"Let's celebrate by going out to dinner," I'd say. "Pick out a restaurant and I'll pay."
"You!" she laughed.
"Sure," I said, looking over onto the couch at my black and white striped back pack.
"I brought my credit card and nothing would please me more, my dear darling Judy."
I'm still mad at her, though I forgive her. She was stubborn as a mule, fearless of what awaited her in the great beyond, but I admire the courage it took to end her life, God damn her!