I know people from Western Massachusetts who go down to New York for a show, shopping and dinner, but I don't know anyone, except my cousin, who drives down just for dinner.
He goes to see his mother (my Aunt Marge) for dinner, and then he turns around and goes back. It's about a four-hour drive from his house in New Hampshire to the city, but it's probably quicker the way he drives, kind of like a New York City cabdriver darting in and out of lanes.
I hitched a ride with him on Sunday because Marge is not doing well, and I wanted to see her. He picked me up in Holyoke and then we headed down. It's funny, we had been trying to arrange lunch in Northampton for months, but it kept falling through. This was last-minute, the way these things often work out. I had heard the night before that he was going, called him, and that was that. It was nice to catch up with him.
Almost every time that I've gone to the city, I've had dinner out with Marge and Bill and the usual group: Serena, Jeanne, Bruce, Amanda and, often, Katie or Ben. She hasn't been able to walk for a while, so she gets gussied up (my mother's words) and then Bill wheels her to a nearby restaurant. We remain "the kids."
When my mother died six years ago, it was hard to imagine how Marge would go on. They were incredibly close, and even called each other the same name, "Bren." This came from the comedy duo Brenda and Cobina.
My mother or my aunt would get the other's attention, mimicking the comediennes' voices, by saying, "Brenda," and the other one would answer, "What is it, Cobina?"
Eventually they forgot which was Bren and which was Cobina, and they both became Bren.
My aunt talks constantly about how much she misses her sister, but, surrounded by love, she has done well without her other half. She and Bill go to opera and many of the other treasures New York has to offer. Her strength has diminished, but she continues to go out to dinner.
On Sunday, she was lying in a hospital bed in their bedroom with its incredible view of the United Nations and the East River. At 93, she has gotten increasingly weak and was unable to get up. She said she wanted to get dressed and go out, but we (the usual group) said we'd bring the party to her. Bill ordered delicious Chinese food, and we ate around the bed. It was a nice little party, with chocolate and strawberries for dessert. We took turns holding her hand.
It was difficult to see her in bed, bringing back memories of my mother like that. But I heard that yesterday she was up in a chair and ate meals at the table. That is a better picture.
On Sunday after dinner, Bob and I got back in the car. I said goodbye to the city lights and to my relatives, used my coat as a blanket and dozed on and off. We got back to my car around midnight. Very surreal. One minute I was "home" in New York, and the next I was "home" in South Hadley. But I was glad I went.
6 hours ago