If I were to sum up my memories of Audrey Fox Lincoln, it would be in these two words: "not boring."
We don't get to choose the family members that come to us by marriage. But sometimes we get lucky. I got my husband's dad, Fred, the father-love of my life, and his wife, Audrey.
Coming to the family late in its history, when Carl was almost 40 and Fred's second marriage to Audrey was seasoned by many years, I had none of the usual family pathos, complications or expectations to color my experience. Preparing me for my first visit with his dad and stepmother, Carl just said, "Audrey's Audrey." I already knew he owed her a debt for re-establishing communication with his father. They had been estranged for at least ten years when Fred and Audrey married. She was their mediator.
I soon learned what he meant by "Audrey's Audrey." Unique. Opinionated. Verbally opinionated. Loving Audrey could be like loving a porcupine. On the flip side, she was: Intelligent. Well read. Informed. Interested in your family as well as hers. Had a memory for things important.
Not boring. I wouldn't mind if that was written as my epitaph. So much goes into those words. She was a great conversationalist. A reasonable card player, but not as good as she thought. An incredible writer. Sometimes when I write, I think about her long journals, all hand written, on the trips she and Fred took to the far parts of the earth, sometimes on a freighter, sometimes a river boat, sometimes with elder hostel or Rotary. Sometimes I think about her when I plan the far parts of the earth I still want to visit. She was at least my age when I met her, going with gusto. She made me excited at what still lies ahead.
Audrey and I shared a silly game, sending each other mystery cooking gadgets in the mail. Once I sent her a garlic peeler, a tube that looked like a large plastic Manicotti. She wrote a note. "We think it is a sex toy, and goodness knows we can use all the help we can get. Tim and Candace have one too, and theirs smells strangely like garlic." I think about Audrey when I peel garlic.
She planned to live a long time. Why else would she go to Jazzercise class in her 80's? Or do a daily crossword puzzle? And she did live a long time, two days past her 93rd birthday. In the last two years, I have seen her three times. Since she lives over 1000 miles away, that says something about how much I valued her friendship. I knew the last visit I would not see her again, not in this world. She rose to the occasion of lunch, but that was all the gusto she had.
What do I wish? I wish I had taken off from work all day every day when she and Fred would visit. Then I would have had many more rounds of bridge to remember. When she didn't get good cards, she would say loudly "BORING!" (Actually, Audrey was often loud, a product of being half deaf.) I wish I had lived closer, so I could have attended cultural events with her. In her later years, I could have driven her to them. I could have gone to Jazzercise with her, joined her bridge group, her book club. I could have watched her role model for an active retired life. And it would never, never, never have been boring.