My college roommate came to visit. She and her husband made a slight detour on their way home from the Mayo Clinic to Lake Holcombe, Wisconsin. Denis, her husband, presented me with a cane he had made just for me, with my initial on it. He and I are both veterans of multiple hip replacements, and he just knows that a cane comes in handy on many occasions, especially traveling.
We caught up on kids, retirement (theirs), jobs (ours) and the upcoming wedding of their youngest son. We talked politics, from local to international. I showed them around our new house and Gayle announced that there are too many stairs and I need a chair lift like the one they got, used.
They met our dog, briefly, before he was relegated to his home in the pantry, where he stayed while we played pool. He has developed a fondness for pool cue chalk, so can’t be let into the room with the pool table.
Gayle and I roomed together only a short while, but it was eventful, as is everything to do with Gayle. She is a bigger than life person who throws herself into every event with great abandon. She is in charge of entertainment for a women’s group in the Holcombe area, and decided that because acts are so expensive, she’ll write a musical. She was in a movie a few years ago that some guy shot in Alma, or near Alma. She did it because she hadn’t been in a movie yet and thought she ought to before she dies. (Whenever we part, she says we may never see each other again. She’s been saying that for nearly forty years. I pointed that out to her and she said, “Well, someday it will be true!”)
Ever since our brief roommate experience at St. Teresa’s, Gayle has been making me do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. Not bad things, necessarily, just not things I would have thought to do myself. She thinks I need help, so she helps me.
She helped me get rid of a pair of shoes she thought were ugly. I came back to the dorm room after a weekend away from school, and looked and looked for my boots. I was very fond of them as they were reminiscent of something Albert Finney wore in the movie Tom Jones.
“They’re gone!” Gayle said. (She was a theater major.) “I threw them away. You looked ridiculous in them.”
“Thanks. My only boots. Good thing I have a pair of sneakers to get me through the winter,” I said. She just ignored me.
After graduation, she went on to get a master’s in theater at the U of M. She dragooned me into acting in her final creative project, which she acted in and directed herself. She needed me to play Vera to her Mame, roles we reprised years later in Winona Community Theater.
She thought my job in an insurance agency office was dead-end, so after she got raves for her show, she talked me into auditioning with her for the travelling company of some theater that came to the Twin Cities. But it wasn’t “with her” at all. I had to go into a room all by myself and sing and dance in front of a table of grim-faced people. It was quite unpleasant, since I had no formal voice training, like Gayle did. She was radiant afterward, and assured me that I would get chosen; she’d see to it. I wasn’t, and I was glad. I felt much more at home with a calculator in front of me rather than an audience.
But her professional theater career came to a screeching halt when she met Denis, a school superintendent in Wisconsin. She retired to raise a family, groom girls for the Miss Wisconsin pageant, teach high school, and direct school and community plays as well as doing some acting.
The morning they left after their visit, she wanted to take a picture, but I was still in my pajamas. “Get dressed,” she said, “and put on some lipstick.” I said I didn’t have any lipstick, and I could just feel her disapproval. But she gamely took a picture of me to show her kids.
She’ll probably tell them I’ve gone totally to pot since she doesn’t live close enough to keep me in line.