William and Louise

Love and Kisses, Louise

One finds friends and forms families of many kinds, especially when you've settled far from home.

We claim among the most fortunate of many good fortunes from life on the Left Coast our friendship with William and Louise. They are a couple of sparklers, she 91, he 88. For most of the last two decades they've had a standing date on Saturday night, sometimes in one of the city's grand hotel dining rooms, often a home-cooked feast at Louise's place. Occasionally we've been invited along.

On our refrigerator door hangs this note:

Any Saturday night you find yourselves free, come with Bill to eat with me. Permanent invitation to one or both. xoxo, Louise

It's like having a get-out-of-jail-free card in your wallet.

Treats from Louise's kitchen came not only on Saturday nights. Rarely passed a week that Louise didn't leave a care package at the front door. Sometimes it held a jar of apricot jam she'd made, or a new batch of chutney. Sometimes it offered up fresh-baked cheese wafers or -- my favorite -- lemon squares. If B.K. was out of town, there might be lentil soup, "so you won't go hungry." And always a chatty note, love and kisses, xoxo, Louise.

Holidays we shared together, usually at our house, usually with a lemon meringue pie from Louise. Christmas and Easter for sure, and sometimes Mother's Day and birthdays, too. Louise said the great thing about adopted families like ours was that they didn't come with all the baggage of actually being related to each other.

Louise fell and broke her hip a few months ago. She didn't make it for Easter this year. So after I took William home, I went by to drop off an Easter basket. She was in bed, dozing, the Sunday paper at her side. She stirred, and we talked a little. Then she turned and looked directly in my eyes. "Cousin Tom," she always called me, "I'm dying now."

I stayed a few more minutes. It was time to leave. "Before you go," Louise said, "look over there in that closet, on the floor on the right. Take a jar of apricot jam."

Louise died last week, just a month after Easter. xoxo, Louise.

More about William W. Whitney