When I was younger I used to have sleepovers at my aunts' houses all the time, and we'd stay up late and play cards or board games and gab. These sleepovers are responsible for some of my favorite memories, with so much talking and laughing, I learned so much about life, and got to spend priceless quality time with some amazing women. I have an especially clear and fond memory of the time I was staying at my Aunt Peg's for a few days as I often did in my childhood, my Aunt Patti was there too, maybe my cousins were there at the time, maybe not, but Memere definitely was. And my aunts were teasing her about the gentleman she'd just started seeing, with whom she planned to attend a county fair.
"The Skowhegan Fair? Or the 'Affair in Skowhegan?'" Aunt Patti quipped, and we all laughed, even if I was too young to appreciate the joke, happy for Memere that she had a chance to do something fun, to spend time with this gentleman, with whom she seemed quite taken. His name was Joe, and his "affair" with Memere turned into one for the ages. These two, both widowed at a young age, found love in their sixties, forming a partnership based on mutual respect and commitment to faith and family that lasted for a few solid decades, the last few years with a ring on Memere's finger. At the heart of it, they were the best of friends. And this weekend my Memere's best friend passed away, peacefully and surrounded by family.
Joe was one of a kind. A real New England character, he knew how to do everything, from managing a thriving garden to building...anything. He was also probably the physically toughest person I've ever known, but such a gentle soul, a good sport, his disposition a perfect complement to Memere's. I was always grateful that he and Memere had each other for such a long time, and in such good health, living actively and independently until the very end. They danced and socialized and kept sharp with endless games of dice and cards. They embraced each other's large families, and were in turn embraced. So many kids were born into my family after they got together, Joe being the only grandfather (or great- and great-great-grandfather) that they knew. He was there for everything, and there for my grandmother. And as it happens when people live such long lives, when she died, he followed not long after.
It is a loss, and of course I'm sad. But his was such a long and well-lived life. His legacy of love and kindness deserve be celebrated. But oh, we will miss you, dear Joe.