This is what, Evie, her friend said as one by one she slowly navigated the eight steps to Cora’s new, spacious brick patio. Cora wasn’t sure whether Evie meant those eight steps or something else. It was something else because on the heels of that pronouncement Evie said “turning 90 is no fun. No fun at all.” Her daughter had thrown a party for her, that Evie had complained about both before and after, saying, “Such a fuss. I had to put on a bra and search high and low for my pearls.” She paused at the step’s summit and peered at the assembled wicker chairs, the glider that Cora had found at an antique store, the inviting glass topped table for eight, and six pots of healthy red geraniums. “There, I’ll sit there,” Evie said and lurched over and onto the glider. She closed her eyes and Cora knew not to interrupt her friend’s assessment of her environment, and the pronouncement that was soon to follow. And did. “You went to all that trouble to move. Just for this,” Evie said, opening her eyes and using her cane to outline the patio.
“Just for this,” Cora repeated, giving it a different meaning. The patio was one of the recent pleasures of Cora’s life. It was true that she did “take the trouble” to move when this apartment with its outdoor space became available. Then it was like furnishing a new longed-for room. “Whose going to pack up all that stuff when we’re gone,” Evie had said. Most of what she said didn’t require a response, only a dedicated listener.
They were old friends of seventy-five years, and mostly tolerated each other’s habits, never mind their choices in men and pets and condiments. Today Cora was glad that the patio rug hadn’t arrived yet. She could imagine her friend’s disapproval of the expense and her reminder of the hazard that area rugs are predicted to be for the elderly. “I’ll bring out the marguerites,” Cora said, wincing, as Evie wielded her cane to dead-head two geraniums that Cora had somehow missed earlier that morning.
In her assisted living kitchen, Cora anointed each glass’s rim with salt, happy to fuss. She used the tray she’d bought in Venice six years ago, on her Singles Only tour that Evie had derided as “too little, too late” when Cora’s new friend died a year later. She added a bowl of cashews to the tray, pleased that she’d made enough for two drinks each.
“Marguerites are too fussy,” Evie said, scooting the two offending dead geraniums behind a bench. “Too much salt. A cold chardonnay would have been just fine.” Nevertheless, she reached for her glass and sipped appreciatively, licked the salt clinging to her lips. “Now tell me your cousin’s plans for your 90th,” she said to Cora, clearly prepared to amend most of them. Her earlier complaint came back to Cora, “Such a long journey,” Evie had said. And Cora took a sip, inordinately happy that the journey wasn’t over yet.