“Oh sit by me dear. Tell me about Tucson and your life…”
Gen was elegant. She loved art. She loved music and beauty and surrounded herself with beautiful things. I’m sure they all meant something to her, and recalled her adventures or exotic places she’d visited all over the world.
I was relieved when Candice called a few days ago and told me Gen had died at home. Sometimes I stayed on the third floor of her lovely Southwest Harbor home if my house was rented to summer folks (like I am now myself).
I’m not sure if Gen finished the cookbook she had been working on when I first met her about 20 years ago. It doesn’t really matter; it was a project that kept her going, that challenged her. She wanted to do it right, as her exquisite cooking deserved.
Gen always liked to discuss ideas or a new book or TV program. “Dear, would you like to watch these videos of a PBS broadcast with Dr. Wayne Dyer?” She wanted me to have a happy, fulfilling life. I wished that she was my mother.
I liked to ask questions about her life, what she had learned. Gen was generous with her memories, was practical about life’s quandaries, and loved to laugh. She was 92 when I saw her last summer. She was wise beyond her years, and always gave the most sensible, clear-headed advice — only if I asked. And I never felt her sharpness had diminished.
Still driving last summer, she liked to go to Ellsworth and get her own groceries.
Sometimes she, Candice and I would have dinner or visit. It was easy to forget that Gen was so much older than us. There were no barriers between us, but she was probably the most dignified person I’ve ever known. She was also one of the girls.
The call girls was a group of Southwest Harbor women over 80 who had a phone tree to contact each other every morning, and “make sure we’re still alive,” Gen told me a few years ago, then chuckled.
There was nothing Gen enjoyed more than knowing the people she cared about were happy. “I’m glad Sheila isn’t selling her house,” she recently told Candice.
I hope I’m as “with it” as Gen when I’m old(er). I think she was in her 70s as part of the Oz writing group, jotting down her feelings about some trigger that Candice gave us and sharing her writing with a much younger group. She was always curious.
It’s hard for me to imagine Gen no longer in Southwest Harbor. I’ll always miss her. While walking and talking to Candice on the phone the other morning I stopped at a small stand of purple, pink and white wildflowers in front of someone’s house. OK, it’s woo woo, but a yellow butterfly flew by, dipping and swirling among the blossoms. I blurted to Candice, “It’s Gen!” What a dear, dear role model.