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  • The three of us met for dinner, laughing and lamenting. Mostly laughing, thankfully.

    We talked about families and spouses and careers and the myriad of things that make us crazy. We talked about the math - the odds being that each of us are likely be alone for about 15 years at the end of our lives, outliving our spouses. So in a casual way, in the midst of all the laughter, we also started making plans:

    "Maybe a communal arrangement..."

    "I will bake. She can cook. I don't like cooking."

    "You should be the gardener. You grow the food so that she can cook it. I will bake and keep the house clean."

    It was all humorous but a tiny bit serious as well. We all agreed that after a certain amount of time and distance, our friends become family by both choice and necessity. There may well come a time when we are negotiating terms of mutual caretaking as opposed to deciding to go into some type of old folks home.

    "The difference is that we would rather take care of one another than be in a place where we are paying strangers to take care of us!" spouted James emphatically.

    We nodded. It's true, I would prefer to take care of them and for them to take care of me. We each have skills, shared values and mutually admired aesthetics. We neither judge nor bemoan one another's baggage or history. We are nothing but supportive of one another - empathetic and responsive - as friends tend to be, not necessarily as families are.

    "I want lots of lilies - casablanca lilies" she says. "My family thinks they are maudlin, but you understand, right? You will grow lots of lilies? And give me just the kind of funeral I want?" At this prompt we grew tangential, quickly. We are all visual types who love to stylize everything, including sublime funerals.

    Yes, lilies and shortbread and muddled cucumber cocktails - I will give you all of these in the end, my friends, the end which is hopefully a very long way off. In exchange I'll ask for your smiles and silence, no questioning or debate. I will be too tired to retell the stories, too unwilling to explain or defend any of it by then. I'll just garden, you cook and he'll bake. It will all be grand, just grand.

    It can all be just as we like it.
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