Following my retirement of traveling the world, I found myself these last seven years living alone in my very large Queen Anne Home.  My partner of 30 years had died. Encouraged by friends, I wrote a couple of memoirs about our travels and my life.  During these years, a number of my relatives and dearest girl friends have died or moved into retirement homes.   My daughter has found her life busier than she had ever imagined with me trying to figure out how to cope with a world of iPhones and other gadgets, and her husband unhappy with his work, —  her trying to be there for both of us and their pets.

What was I to do with myself?  I had to start learning stuff I had never wanted to learn — mostly about details –  like run a huge home,  keep the lawn looking presentable and seek young millennials to enjoy. 

Then a gal named Reneé came into my life, possessing those many skills I most lacked.  I had already decided that to keep me organized,  what I most needed was a secretary!  I’d always had one before retirement.  I also needed  help  organizing all the ‘stuff’ in my huge home.  In fact, I often felt obsolete — lacking the skills so necessary for today’s fast moving world of varied devices requiring continued new learning  of newer yet apps with its regular expensive upgrades.  I was not alone.  Most my generation were seeking varied coping mechanisms or had even giving up having a computer or a TV that also showed movies.

Reneé was living a quiet life with a need for more interesting girlfriends, her new husband who kinda preferred her staying at home and her 27 year old son.  Though she had lived with her first husband in Europe while he served in the army, her main work experience had been with hotels, keeping rooms organized and clean.  The clincher for me was observing how she used her iPhone to keep her life organized.  I no sooner told her how I needed someone to organize my home, room by room — starting with the pantry — getting rid of duplicates like crockpots — then she was ‘on it!’  Before  I knew it, counters were free of clutter, space opened up like magic in the cupboards, dishes were organized on the shelves and duplicates disappeared into the basement where we decided stuff no longer usable would be kept.  Junk there would be eventually  boxed and sealed to be taken to Good Will,  serviceable items boxed and taken to thrift shops.  When I expressed a desire for one of those self-cleaning frying pans, she got me one.  A small tree in my front yard was dying.  She immediately located a person to cut it down and reseed the lawn. Gardening was a great love of hers that got her into my shed containing all yard stuff that she then organized.  When we had an invasion of thousands of ants swarming over the kitchen floor following the ice storm that had frozen, then burst water pipes in the basement, she quickly obtained information on her iPhone for a pest-control site getting someone here the next day.  Several days later, ants were gone.  And so it goes.

We are now examining the first signs of Spring as we check the soggy flower gardens for early blooms and the lawns for bare spots in need of new seeding.  Tentatively we open the shed to check the condition of equipment and jars of ‘God knows what’ in varied containers.  Enthusiasm bursts forth as we plan our first visit to gardening shops, wondering if it is too soon to get hanging pots to cheer up our soggy yards or colorful perennials to border garden edges. 

Following our first day of planting new flowers while thrilled with all the new bleeding heart bushes in full bloom, I get an anxious call from Reneé.  “Shirley, I just heard tonight’s forecast of early frost.  You must take in the baskets and cover up the new plants with whatever you can find!”  Thankful for her call, I stumble out into the windy, chilly darkness of night, hoping to be ‘the big protector of all new life.

Though we’ve lived in very different worlds, and we’re years apart in age, we’ve become ‘girlfriends’ who begin each time together with coffee, chit-chat and cookies, discussing things we might explore when summer finally comes, in this beautiful state of many parks and beautiful lakes.  Maybe even take an overnight trip to Minnesota’s fabulous ‘North Shore’ with its quaint villages, fabulous historic sites and festive annual contests on its shores and harbors.  Who knows what new adventures might await us!  We just know, “We are ready!”  Reneé is my special secret for my more optimistic ‘take on life’.

I suspect I may have a jealous friend or two.

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