Editor’s Note: This guest post is contributed by Carole Leskin.
For the last few years, Tuesday has been my favorite day of the week.
I wake up early, shower, dress and rush off to the JCC to meet my friends for the first class of the day. It’s a wonderful class about culture, history and politics. The teacher is terrific and we have been his students for several semesters. Our rule is that the first person to arrive saves seats for the rest of us. We need about 10 chairs. Everyone tries to get there a little early so we can chat a bit before it starts.
When class ends, the person who can walk the fastest rushes downstairs to the little cafeteria where we will have lunch. It’s a small room, so we have to get there quickly and push four tables together to accommodate all of us. Other friends and friends of friends join so that soon we have 12 people. And then the real fun begins. It’s like the Tower of Babel, with everyone talking at once! There’s a lot of laughter as we share the events of the week. Tales of children and grandchildren, who did what over the weekend, who will be traveling where, and other things necessary to staying connected are discussed. Sometimes someone has a really great joke to tell, and sometimes a sad story. And of course there is good gossip! Finally, we synchronize our calendars for upcoming activities. Movies, plays, concerts, day trips and just getting together for a quick meal are all entered into Smart Phones and reminders set. An hour has flown by!
The second half of the day finds most of the group going off to play mah jongg. This is really serious business, and they have been playing together for many years. The competition is intense, and strategies are closely held. I don’t play. Instead, I go off to my second class. It’s a study of Torah, and I love it. When it’s over, I head back to the card tables to say goodbye. I’m not allowed to linger, because it disturbs their concentration!
Time to head home. I usually stop at the local farmers market along the way and pick up some fresh veggies for dinner. It’s been a good day to be sure. And when I get home, I’m not lonely. My head is filled with the new things I’ve learned, and my heart is filled with friendship and warmth.
Our last class of the semester was 3 weeks ago. When I arrived, a seat had been saved for me. But there were no other seats saved. “Where is everyone”, I asked? “It’s just the two of us today”, my friend replied. Three of our group were in the hospital. Several others were quite sick. Another had just gone into rehab. And then there was the death of one whose funeral we had recently attended. Her husband was moving out West to live with his daughter.
When class ended, we did not have to hurry to the cafeteria. It was easy to find a table for two. As we sat down, I looked at my friend and said quietly, “I guess we’re like The Last of the Mohicans”. “I’m scared”, she said. “Me too”, I replied. We did not have to say anything else.
I did not stop at the farmers market on the way home. And when I got there, I felt like someone had punched me, really hard, in the gut. It had not been a good day.
I saw my friend a few days later. She had called her daughter to tell her about our diminishing circle of friends. Her daughter is a good listener and a compassionate woman. She knew many of these people, some of them since she was a little girl. And so, she was able to understand the pain and comfort her mother.
But I don’t have any family, no one to really understand or call for comfort. Because, you see, my friends are my family. So I’m left with a question. What now? Will I ever sit at a big table again? Or will my remaining years be spent at a table for two?
Carole Leskin is a retired Director of Global Human Resources. Embarking on a second career as a writer and photographer concentrating on her personal accounts of aging, her essays and poetry, frequently accompanied by her photos, are published in Jewish Sacred Aging, Jewish Women of Words, Starts At 60, Navigating Aging ( a Kaiser Health publication), Women’s Older Wisdom, Time Goes By and Next Avenue. Her poems, “Father Time” and “Carole’s Debate” were selected for inclusion in the 2019 anthologies of poetry, New Jersey Bards. Her photos have been featured in Mart R Porter Nature Forum.
You can decide not to be a table for two and go out and seek to make some new friends. Try lifelong learning programs at a nearby college, if you volunteer to help others, you feel empowered.