I began this blog three years ago for no other reason than I wanted a way to publish a tribute I had written to Dr. Herbert Ratner, a Chicago doctor  who made a real difference in my life.  Today I write another tribute, to Felice, a lifelong friend.

I met Felice when I was 18 and attending  a dinky college, the Junior College of Connecticut, which later went on to become the University of Bridgeport.

A noble schoolie, J.C.C., it nestles ‘mong the maples
It teaches facts and theories, and offers all the staples.
Ten loving profs have charge of it, both male and female teachers
And in their arms they now embrace 170 creatures.

I don’t remember the rest of that little verse by Prof. Goulding – it has, after all, been 70 years!  And I still wonder at the chutzpah of the people who gathered 10 teachers together and dared to call it a college.   It struggled for years but now, as the University of Bridgeport,  has a beautiful campus at Seaside Park on Long Island Sound.

Felice, at that tender age, already knew she wanted to go to the University of Chicago and JCC was a stepping stone.  I, on the other hand, had no dreams of college.  I knew my family couldn’t afford to pay college tuition.  I had taken a commercial course in high school and considered myself competent in bookkeeping and stenography.  I only applied to JCC because it was (a) in town and (b) I had received a $100 scholarship when I graduated and didn’t want to waste it.  My plan was to add to my skills by becoming a medical secretary.

Felice and I became fast friends and sure enough, when the two year course was done, she  headed off to the University of Chicago and I went to work at Bridgeport Hospital as secretary to the pathologist.

That would have been the end of our friendship had Felice not come home on summer vacation and talked me into writing the U of C and applying for a scholarship.   She was excited by what she had found at the U of C and urged me to write to Norman McLean – I forget his title – send my records and ask if they could help me.   I still remember the first sentence of his reply: “Not everyone who writes to me is lucky, but I think you are.”   As I recall it, my tuition would be taken care of and I would manage my own room and board.

Wow!  My Daddy liked me working and bringing home some money.  I had to ask him for permission to go to college – not for him to help pay my way but for me to do it on my own.  And he said OK.

So off I went to the big City of Chicago and the big University of Chiago.  But I was blessed with Felice who had already been there two years, knew the ropes, had a group of friends – and as she swam in the main stream I just swam alongside.   Felice is friendly and talkative – what would I have done without her to grease the skids?  She got me a room in International House right next to hers and shepherded me until I knew my way around.  Who but Felice would have inspired me to sit in on Mortimer Adler’s Great Books classes?  Had it not been for her I would never have meet the luminaries in my life, Mortimer Adler and Herbert Ratner.

In due course we graduated.  Felice married Octavio who was from Mexico and went to live in Mexico City.   I married Dick, a Loyola student, and we lived in Chicago where we produced seven children.  Over the years Felice and I  kept in touch, remembering Christmas and birthdays.  I think I saw her once again when she visited the States, and I went to Mexico to see her at one point, but those memories are quite vague. I do remember I took my Polaroid camera with me on the first trip.

The years flew by.  Finally, the year of Felice’s 80th birthday, I persuaded  my friend Dolores into going to Mexico City with me to visit Felice.   Octavio had died and Felice had a lovely home in a gated community just calling to us.   She had not changed.  She had the same facial expressions, the same drive, the same intelligence.   She had her chauffeur drive us thither and yon, shopping, dining, visiting the shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe, seeing the sights.   I remember abundant fruit, finger-ready, a refrigerator stocked with Cerveza in our little guest suite, beautiful art work by Felice’s daughter.  It was a totally lovely visit.

More years. Felice’s 89th birthday is coming up.   Correspondence from Felice has stopped.   Her brothers, Al and Lenny, still live in Connecticut and tell me they have heard very little from her.   When Lenny called Mexico he was told she was in the hospital.   We knew she had had a long time battle with a slow growing thyroid cancer.  Finally, in desperation, I asked my Spanish-speaking daughter-in-law, Martha,  to call to see if she could find out anything from the servants.  That was yesterday.

Finally, I have Felice on the phone.  It is truly an Easter gift to learn that she is still alive! What a pleasure to talk with her, to hear her laugh!  She had been in the hospital with bronchitis but is home now, with a nurse who comes every day.  She spends a lot of time in a  recliner.   Time and time again I have wished we could communicate via computer – her grandson Pedro has one – but she is having none of it. She could read my blog and keep current  – as long as I keep current.

Felice will be 89 in early May.    She tells me she still reads the New York Times and The Economist.   Yep, that’s Felice, all right!  I have to admit I’ve never seen a copy of The Economist but I have high respect for it as it is admired by people I respect.  Isn’t that the way we decide what (or who) is good, and what’s not?

Felice was a pivotal person in my life.  She changed the whole trajectory!  A true friend!  Thank you, Felice, and God bless.   Vaya con dios!

 

P. S. Be it known that in order to remedy my unfamiliarity with The Economist I looked it up on Google and forthwith posted on Facebook a quote and a link to an article saying that Obama was “unfair” and “misleading” in his recent budget talk.   If Felice could only go on Facebook I could “friend” her!

 

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A faithful friend is the medicine of life. – Ecclesiasticus 6:16