Scrabbling with Speedy
It was in the late 90s, when the world wide web was still very new to me, and a virtual friend named Desertsky (pronounced Desert Sky, not de-ZERT-ski) invited me to join a small internet group list called "Fat Quarters." Her friend Bonnie Hunter and another friend Jill [surname forgotten] had decided it would be fun to form a new group of people who mostly didn't already know each other. I "met" a fabulous group of women through this group, many of whom I'm still in contact with today, even though the list became defunct as blogs and Facebook bloomed. Most of us are minimally connected through FB.
Early on, Marilyn and I hit it off. A prolific quilter, Marilyn soon became known as "Speedy." She was full of ideas, and actually carried them out. No stack of UFOs for that gal. At one point, she and I decided to deplete our flannel stashes by making pairs of blocks, sending half to each other, and putting them together for charity quilts. We must have made a half-dozen each.
Marilyn and Kathy came to Lancaster at one point early on, and I drove out to meet them for lunch. That was the sum-total of our in-person experience. One lunch. But we had so much more. She encouraged me as I explored the possibility of hospital chaplaincy. I supported her as she watched her husband lose his cancer battle. I could always count on her for a word of wisdom; she told me once that I was "a constant in her life."
Marilyn participated in most of the block swaps I ran over the years, with Speedy always being the first to send in her creations. And they were perfect. And beautiful. She was a generous and thoughtful friend. Spontaneous gifts would show up in my mailbox with no identification, no return address, just the suspicious postmark "Corte Madera, CA."
As a Scrabble opponent, she was the best ever. A linguistics major, Marilyn knew more words than anyone I've ever met. I used to have fun creating definitions for ones that she would spring on me, and we'd go back and forth, refining and improving said definitions. I'm a decent Scrabble player, but on the occasions when I'd defeat Marilyn, I'd feel exuberantly proud. Especially since most of the time in my games with her my rack would be filled with one-point vowels and the occasional N. I connected Marilyn with the next-best Scrabbler I know, my nephew Scott. The two of them trounced me regularly.
In the middle of last week, a side message on a Scrabble game said, "Missed a step. In the hospital with two pelvic fractures." I responded appropriately -- telling her the hospital was MY turf -- and then the game went quiet. I imagined she hadn't had her phone charger with her and the phone battery needed juice. Yesterday I started to worry. Surely someone would have intervened and helped charge that phone. "Worrying about you," I texted.
The phone call this afternoon was from a number in San Francisco. Turns out it was Marilyn's number, but it was her son calling to tell me she'd died in her sleep, probably not long after playing "BA" for eighteen points.
Like I say, it's complicated. One lunch together, about twenty years ago. And so much more: laughter, blocks, wisdom, camaraderie, faithful friendship. And an unfinished Scrabble game.