Actually Janet's most recent Breakfast Club visit was the last one I chronicled here, the morning we all, without knowing it, said our last goodbyes to Libby. It's been a difficult nine months for Janet; she is the third woman around the table to be staring down cancer every single day. I've heard she won't be taking another round of chemo, but she doesn't mention it today.
Janet is thin and gaunt, but proudly points out that she has in fact eaten all of her breakfast, something that has been difficult lately. "Maybe it's because I just took my time about it," she comments to her friend Cathy. (Or maybe it's because the fellowship around this table has distracted her mind from the bitterness of life, taken the edge off, just for a few moments.) Her recent chemo has devastated much more than her taste buds. She looks pert and sweet in her black beret and sweater, but she mostly just listens. Her energy has been completely depleted just getting here. Without saying a word, I know we all share the question - will we be facing another empty chair next month?
Currently Janet is in the process of cleaning out the cute little Cape Cod house she shares with her daughter,they're heading for a condo her son owns. When someone asks her what's keeping her busy, she talks about getting rid of stuff, a job that seems endless in her ever weakening condition. "What did I want with all this stuff," she muses. There are murmurs of assent around the table. We all seem to understand the dilemma she feels, but I think she feels it more intensely. She'll be moving soon, but maybe not to the condo.
We chat about grandchildren and books we are reading or need to read. Nora has been quieter than usual today, but she perks up when I tell her a new book has come out in the Mitford series we all read a few years back. She declares enthusiastically, "We'll have to read that!"…and I make a mental note to call the bookstore and order "us" a copy. We commiserate with Belle's car trouble, and the laughter rings out as we agree that all manner of leaks develop over time, and not just in our vehicles. Libby would've loved that moment.
The conversation returns to stuff management. "If there was one thing I would say to younger women," continues Nora, "it would be: 'Don't collect things.'" I make a mental note of this wise word, and store it away:
Breakfast Club Lesson #3: "Don't Collect Things"
Nora continues, wondering aloud, "Why did I ever start? Now it's all just a bother to me." Janet nods in agreement. I think about "The Museum" room at Hickory Lane, (and the attic and the basement and that terrible chaos of stuff above the garage) and I wonder if I should make a big wall motto of this insight so that I can absorb the truth of it into my own life. Don't collect things.
Don't. collect. things.
The group begins to disperse. This one has a car appointment at the garage -a leak, (remember?), and Janet is too weary to stay any longer. I watch as Cathy gently helps Janet across the room and out the door. "I'll take you for a drive to see the place where all those dahlias are blooming," she says as they head out the door. They are holding hands, and it almost breaks my heart to see how tenderly Cathy guides her to the waiting car. They used to work hard together, side by side, but those days are fading memories. Still, Cathy persists. She is a faithful friend even in this darkest stretch of Janet's journey.
And I know that Nora will call Belle when she has to make another "out-patient procedure" visit in the near future. Of course, they check in every evening, these two who have crafted a lovely friendship in the decades since Libby first introduced them. Their shared loss has only deepened the bond.
I am learning so much from these remarkable, ordinary Women of the (Breakfast) Club. They are quietly modeling the polar opposite of "Collecting Things." They value people, and invest in friendships in ways that make a facebook "like" seem like a smudge on the screen.
There are goodbyes all around, and "see-you-next-month" waves…"If I'm still around," Janet murmurs softly. I swallow, wondering how we will bear another loss "so soon;" but isn't it always too soon to say another goodbye?
there is still time.
To invest in relationships.
To send a card.
To stop at the bookstore and order "our" book.
To linger a bit longer over coffee...
It is only Nora and I left, and is it my imagination, or are we both reluctant to leave? We pause over our table clearing job, and I mention that Youngest Mystery was baptized last weekend. She smiles gently, and muses over the memory of her own baptism over seventy-five years ago. "I'm not in a rush to leave," I tell her. We settle in and she begins telling me her story...
"I'm learning," I think to myself, "I'm learning!"
Don't collect things.
Invest in friendship.
When friends gather, gather friends.