Cathy and Mark come to Flushing - 11th February 2015
Despite my late bed time I am awake early, and lay remembering the great night last night. Peter Ormrod (my husband's best friend from 45 years ago in Zambia) has said he will be here at 11.30 am and that he will call me when he is on the road, he anticipates around 9.30 am. I make tea and slice fruit and go back to bed and write, checking my phone regularly. I wonder how I will organise Peter's arrival, if Bev and Dickie are still asleep at 11.30, which seems likely. I get up to make toast, and Dickie, bless him, is up - "Saaaaaaaaandra - your hear from your friend yet?" The sky is 'snowy' he tells me, there will be lots of snow later. Its 10.30 am and nothing from Pete but this is not unusual, something I expected. Ten minutes later he calls, he hums and hems and says its snowing heavily, long pause, he is on the road to get gun supplies, long pause - when am I returning to Australia? This is familiar territory. I make it easy for him, and tell him not to come, its too far, too snowy and too dangerous. He makes a half hearted effort and tells me how disappointed he is, and what am I doing tomorrow? I tell him we are out all day, give my love to Ann, don't worry about it. Relieved and off the hook, he mumbles inauthentically about friendship and puts down the phone. I am clear I have made a decision about this friendship, and I too, feel relieved.
I call Cathy and Mark, who live in Connecticut close to Peter, to tell them its OK not to come. I understand about the massive snowfall, the distance, but they are already well on their way, they sound happy and excited and cannot wait to see me. They will be here as planned by 1 pm. God Bless their thick woolly socks.
The afternoon is memorable for many reasons, a sheer delight. Bev is up and has set the table with the Australian table cloth I gave her years ago, so she reminds me - and her best crockery and glasses, and piled the plates with all kinds of special sugary delights. Dickie has put fresh hand towels in the bathroom, vacuumed and the TV is on, but turned down. Cathy calls and says they are in the car park downstairs, Dickie takes the phone, and asks them what they are driving, so he can recognise them when he comes to guide them into a parking space. A silver Porsche. A SILVER PORSCHE? I can see the look on Dickie's face, and he layers up and heads out into the snow. I wonder if the car will still be there on their return.
We look out the kitchen window, where Bev always waves to her kids and grandkids as they leave the building, a last "bye bye" - and she says, wow, they are sure bundled up. And they are. I get quite teary when we have a group hug, and am surprised to feel the depth of Mark's emotion and the tightness of his hug - he remarks at some point, "I have known you most of my life" - he is a handsome, mature man of 55, and I am only 10 years older, but somehow in my eyes, he has always remained the teenage son of Priscilla, one of my dearest friends. They have brought a bottle of French champagne - Cathy and I always shared a passion for bubbles - and our talk and laughter never stops.
Bev and Dickie are gracious hosts, and our reunion is a happy one, we cannot remember when we saw each other last. Was it at the Golden Circle Event in Bali in 2001? Or in Africa, at one of Priscilla's many wonderful large celebrations? They both look older, and happy - as I know I am too, and Mark is slimmer, he had a benign tumour removed from his stomach a year ago, and shows me the scar. They have only been in New York for a few months, having come from a Vice Presidency role in IBM in Ireland, and are adjusting to life in America. There are two sorts of Americans, he ventures- those who do everything by the book, cautious, slow and solid, and the 'others' - a bit mad and a bit bad. He and Cathy still share the same hot 'look' for each other, and he speaks of her with such respect - he acknowledges all their children are good looking, and they get their looks from their beautiful mother. He honours for for making their busy nomadic lifestyle work, buying and selling houses, finding new friends and furnishings, taking care of their animals, changing countries - Hong Kong, France, Ireland and now America, his eyes mist up a little. She still clearly adores him. I remember all those times that Priscilla was 'certain' they were not happy, that Mark had had an affair, that Cathy really wasn't 'the one' for Mark. I remember protesting, saying they were always so 'into' each other. I am so happy to see them still 'into' each other, and so happy.
We open the bottle of red and the white which Dickie took me to buy a few days ago, and after consultation, I order some Thai takeaway from a new restaurant we saw a few days ago in Flushing. Called "IndoChi" at 70 - 74 Kissena Boulevard, it sells Indian, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese food, and I am hungry for a good Asian meal. We anticipate a Thai Green Chicken, Pad Thai, Beef Vindaloo and a couple of other dishes. When the man comes, I have my Visa card ready for the $35 charge (I can scarcely believe all this food costs only $35) as I know both Mark and Dickie will leap to pay for it. He is a polite, well spoken Muslim man, with a beard and handles my transaction swiftly. Mark pushes a tip into my hand to give him, how much, I ask - $4 says Mark. I hand it over and the delivery man leaves. We start opening steaming packages, when the door bell rings, Dickie answers it and calls "Saaaaaaaaandra!" It is the Muslim delivery man back again, and he hands me a $20 note, saying I had given him too much money and he wanted to return it. I query Mark, who insists it was four single dollar notes, but the man is insistent, and pushes the yo yo $20 note back in my hand, I thank him, and close the door. I am gobsmacked. Nobody would have known, not Mark nor me - but this man clearly knew it was an error, and came back in from the snow to return it. I have a lump in my throat. Mark says, you should have just given it to him. I think, of course I should have, I was so taken aback by the gesture, my brain wasn't working. I call the restaurant, acknowledge the 'young man', and tell them what happened, and ask them to send him back (it's only down the road) - so I can reward him. She promises to pass the message on as he is out on deliveries. We talk about the integrity of this act for a long time, Dickie thinks he will not come back as it will offend his culture, Mark cannot understand how he mistook a $20 bill for a $1 bill. I am berating myself for not immediately acknowledging his moral values. The food I think, whilst enjoyed by the others, is pretty awful - Australia has THE most delicious Asian food, and this restaurant does not have it. The afternoon eventually winds down around 5 pm, they have a two hour drive back home, and the delivery man has not returned yet. Mark and Cathy leave, and I call the restaurant again - luckily, the man is there and they put him on the phone. The conversation goes like this:
Me: I rang the restaurant to tell them how impressed I was with you - the 'young man' who delivered our food today and to acknowledge you for your integrity and honesty, for returning the $20 and for taking the time to come back up the stairs and the effort you made.
Delivery Man: Maam, thank you, but I am not young.
Me: You are younger than me.
DM: It was no problem Maam.
Me: I think that was a wonderful act.
DM: I just want to do the right thing Maam.
Me: And I do too, I want you to have that $20 as a reward.
DM: I appreciate the sentiment, but its really fine. My country is not represented very well right now, and I want to do the right thing.
Me: (eyes filling up) - You are right, your country isn't, but you are a great Ambassador and an inspiration. I have a Muslim family in Lombok, who adopted me, who are like you, kind and good and true people.
DM: I have not heard of Lombok, where is it?
DM: Well thank you Maam, but I cannot take your money.
DM: No thank you Maam.
Me: Oh, my - I am so touched and inspired by youI Can I donate $10 to an orphanage for disabled children in Cambodia, and the other $10 to a young girl in Nepal who recently had brain surgery for a tumour, on your behalf?
DM: That would be my honour Maam. Thank you.
Me: Thank you.
I put the phone down with my heart filled with admiration for the love and generosity of so many people on the planet. I am truly moved by the beauty of humanity, the people I have shared this day with, and the blessings of my life.
We spent the night quietly, watching TV and for me, reflecting on so much. Tomorrow is a big day, and we are being picked up at 8.45 am for the Gospel Service by Nath and Yvonne. I cannot wait. I know mornings are not Bev's thing, this is an effort for her, she is doing this for me, a gesture of love and friendship, and I am grateful. I go to bed about 10.30 pm, and when I get up to wee a couple of hours later they are still watching TV.
How do they survive on so little sleep?