Throughout the years, many of my readers and followers have listened to me lament on the changing definition of the "best friend." While some might think me overly optimistic in my goal, it is only because I grew up with role models who were the perfect definition of that term.
Maxine and Mervyn Frye were not only my grandparent's neighbours in Nottawa, but they were also their best friends. For almost 50 years, there were morning coffee dates, lunches, dinners and leisurely chats on the front porch lasting late into the evening. The Frye's were like my surrogate grandparents, and I remember vividly staying with them the day of my grandpa Harold's funeral when I was a boy of 9 years old, playing with my Lego with Mervyn and Maxine as they tried to make the loss of my first grandparent a less scary moment.
I often think of the history that my grandparents, Neil and Reba, and the Frye's shared. Both came to Nottawa in the 1950's with young families, and both saw many transitions throughout the years as their kids grew up, married and had children of their own. They also shared many sad moments, particularly the loss of Maxine's husband Mervyn in 1988, and the loss of my own beloved grandpa Neil in 1992. For many years after my grandpa's passing, Maxine my grandma and I would often joke of the occasion when I had received the gift of a fancy German slingshot from our neighbours the Rykerts back in the early 1980's. It came with very potent (and dangerous) lead pellets, and my grandpa was eager to try it out on scaring off the squirrels that would plunder his bird feeders. One afternoon he glanced up from his chair (and his National Enquirer) to see a squirrel dangling from one of the aforementioned feeders. He jumped up so quickly, slingshot in hand that he actually startled both my grandma and I. He shot a lead pellet at the hapless squirrel only to miss his target (no need to call PETA), but unfortunately did not miss the Frye's aluminum screen door across the street! I can still recall Maxine saying, "I was sitting watching Wheel of Fortune and then BANG!" She got up to find a neat hole in her door and a pellet on her front vestibule floor!
The other great memory of times spent with Maxine is when she would accompany my grandparent's and I to the church suppers at McIntyre United Church. We would always joke about the amount of food each of us would eat, and always left with bulging belt buckles. Usually when we would go back home to Nottawa after such an event, Maxine, my grandma and I would go for our daily walk around Nottawa, something that we had done with regularity since my grandma's heart attack in 1985. Speaking of the 1980's, it wouldn't be complete if I didn't include my grandpa's favourite nickname for Maxine. As "The Golden Girls" was one of our favourite shows, my grandpa's nickname for Maxine was Dorothy, something I'm not quite certain she found endearing, ha ha! Oh well, my grandma was Rose, and I do believe that left me as Blanche, and of course my grandpa as crotchety Sophia, ha ha ha!
Since I've moved away, I unfortunately don't get as many opportunities to see the folks I love as often as I wish I could. I was overjoyed to received the invitation from Maxine's granddaughter Jennifer on the occasion of her 90th birthday. The last time I had seen Maxine was in 2010 when I was dealing with my cat Murphy's cancer diagnosis, and unfortunately didn't have a chance for a repeat visit while she still called Nottawa home.
She now lives in a beautiful retirement villa in the town of Walkerton. It was our first ever trip up there, and I was truly overjoyed to see her after so much time, as she was with me. We also got to see some other wonderful folks, Willa Rentner, Rose Pierce and Rose Patterson being among those beautiful faces from the past. I promised to come back soon for a return visit as old friends, "best friends", are truly one of life's greatest gifts.
Happy 90th birthday Maxine, and thank you for being the perfect example of a true "best friend."