October 28, 2008

Dorothy and Mary

MP and Dorothy Wolfe at the Mount Palomar Observatory, 1977.

Himself: Came home very happy. Had a great day.

Herself: Had a really good but lazy day. Once I heard about Mary, I grew very tired with depression.
Food: The Peas were like lead. Cheese sandwich and soup worked.
Dorothy Wolfe, a major art talent, a graduate of the Art Students League in NY, and a periodic drunk, was a little older than I am when she packed up her beach bag and moved to the mountains. Cheaper rent up there and some new friends revitalized her. In her late sixties, she had signs of blocked arteries in her neck, and they had roto-rootered them out. A revolutionary procedure in those days.

I’d had a signal system set up with her here at the beach. If her blinds were still down mid morning, I would go check on her. She had no safety net set up with her new friends. She had a stroke, and lay in her vomit for days before being discovered. The acid ate an eye, and the stroke took her sanity. It took a year in the hospital before she died.

Yesterday I got an email from the estranged daughter of an old friend, Mary….”Help,” it asked. I emailed back saying I lived a mile away and that she had a neighbor who took care of things when she was ill. And I asked what happened.

Mary, who has battled diabetes and all the side effects, lived on a very limited income, rode through life on a rose colored power chair, and held her head up no matter the struggle. She was a writer. She was a recovering alcoholic. I’d given her a 30 year token just recently, and I’d often talked to her about coming to our writing workshop.

She had a small heart attack, her daughter wrote me, and her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long. She was now in Mercy Hospital in a vegetative state.

I wasn’t a good friend. I confess. I’m never a really good friend. Once after Dorothy moved, I saw her only once in the hospital. I still miss her creativity in my life. I don’t miss her drunks.

I can’t tell you why I wasn’t closer to Mary. Something wasn’t a fit. We chatted happily when we met, and if we didn’t, we emailed. We called on occasion. Perhaps I remain too self focused. Perhaps I isolate too much with my words. She had said just two weeks ago that she needed younger friends. Too many of her friends were in their seventies or older. Come to class with me, I’d say. Next week….this week I am helping a friend who had a double mastectomy. But next week didn’t come.

I’m going to the hospital this morning. I don’t think I will say, “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend,” but I will be thinking it.


  1. Oh, Maggie. Don't beat yourself up. You have been an outstanding friend to many. Dear Duck, as a prime example. You simply can't spread yourself thin enough to be a "good" friend to everyone. I think you're pretty damn special just the way you are.

  2. We all fall short, don't we? It would be wonderful if we could say we did right by all, or even a few. In your mind, in your prayers, you can stand by that bedside and say those words. Yet, when you come out of the hospital room, give yourself some credit for going there and for caring.


What a delight to get a note from you. Thanks for leaving one.


Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...