by Andy Weddington
Friday, 30 December 2011
"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can." Danny KayeIt was not quite a year ago, early afternoon, and our cottage front door was purposely set ajar--a signal we were in and visitors, if so inclined, welcome.
There was a few polite raps on the wood frame and a female voice called out, "Hello. Anyone home?"
It was Ginny.
"Ginny, great to see you. Please, come in. Welcome." And so she did--"Just for a few minutes," she said.
Ginny was on a walk, happened to see the door ajar and, since it'd been a few days, wanted to see the latest paintings. She was interested in my paintings. She studied them. She asked good questions. She asked insightful questions. We talked. And then she took another quick look, offered a kind word or two, and bid farewell to continue her walk.
I first met Ginny more than a few years ago--I was painting and she happened by standing quietly behind at a respectable distance without interrupting. Sensing presence, I turned and offered a word of welcome and engaged in a few moments of small talk learning her first name and where she lived and she mine. Then she told me some of her college friends were visiting, knew they'd be interested in seeing the paintings, and asked if they could possibly drop by the cottage? "Sure. Anytime. If the door's ajar, we're in." Then apologizing for interrupting, she was off.
The next day a group of five or six women, Ginny amongst them, showed up and spent about an hour with us--looking at paintings and visiting. Nice.
Since our first meeting, about this same time each year in the tiny settlement, Ginny and I bumped into each other often when I was out painting. And with regularity, every few days, she'd stop by the cottage to see the latest paintings--always taking a 'few minutes' to study them and talk.
The last couple of years our friendship moved a step or two forward. She invited my wife and I to her cottage a few times for an evening social, and we would see her at socials elsewhere in town.
Ginny--unpretentious as they come. Pleasant. Bright. Genuinely friendly. Engaging. And simply a pleasure to talk with--about anything. And she had something in common with my wife--Ginny was a breast cancer survivor. Anyone who's been close to the disease knows there's a special camaraderie and bond amongst these women.
During one of her drop-in visits last year Ginny said she was interested in taking a painting course from me. But she had a concern--something that stopped her from approaching me in previous years. Ginny had a slight tremor--to a stranger it appeared as Parkinsons but it was the remnants of a head injury--and worried that her unsteady hand would be a problem. I told her quite the contrary, and assured her the tremor would be to her advantage--she'd enjoy a natural looseness others would envy. She smiled and seemed to like that perspective. "Something to think about," she said. And I figured I'd have a new student.
Tuesday afternoon, this past Tuesday afternoon, my wife and I walked by Ginny's cottage. After all, it's that time of the year. The doors and windows were open. Great. We decided as soon as we finished our errands we'd pop in and say hello, and see if she was all set to tackle the painting course.
Typical, errands took longer than expected and as it was getting on towards the dinner hour we decided it best to visit another day--maybe tomorrow.
That evening, over drinks at another friend's cottage, we learned Ginny would not be painting. And we learned Ginny would not be dropping by to see my latest paintings and talk.
Ginny, our friend informed us with a teary eye, died suddenly in some sort of accident back home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, less than two months ago.
Stunned. We'd not heard.
Tuesday night, in bed and about to doze off after a long day, I thought about my last brief visit with Ginny. I could picture her slight build and posture, sparkling eyes, and warm smile. Now she's gone.
Wednesday afternoon we walked by Ginny's cottage. The doors and windows were open--as if she was home. We knocked on the ajar side door and called out, "Hello. Anyone home?" The telephone rang as a female voice answered, "Come in." Two of Ginny's daughters greeted us. We introduced ourselves, said we were friends of Ginny's, had just learned of her death and wanted to say how sorry we were for their loss. One of her daughters went to the kitchen and retrieved a calendar of my paintings I'd given Ginny last year. I'd given her one the year before, too. And this year's calendar, one I'd earmarked for Ginny, will go to her children.
In a bit of irony, just before we departed one of Ginny's daughters showed us a couple of simple still life watercolor sketches her Mom had done--not known to her but stumbled upon the other day looking for some art paper for one of her children to use. Not once had Ginny mentioned to me she dabbled with paints but now some things made better sense. How fitting her daughter showed me a couple of her Mom's paintings. In a sense, our story, the 'painting'--life's canvas, complete.
Virginia "Ginny" Lee Groebe Dyer--1937-2011. A fine soul. A most fitting line in her obituary: "Above all else, Ginny had a generous spirit, was a committed friend, and a devoted wife, sister, mother and grandmother."
I was aware Ginny was a wife, sister, mother, and grandmother. I knew her as a friend.
Like dear family and friends, Hope Town misses her and mourns.
Call it irony or serendipity, Ginny's cottage is named "Chrysalis."
Life goes on. But for those who knew Ginny it'll not be quite the same--yet enriched for having known her.