Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Search of...the ladies who lunch

Every so often I have lunch with some ladies. At one time we all worked together. It was a fun and happy time in my life. But as with everything, times changed, jobs ended, and we no longer spend hours of each day with one another. So every so often, we meet and have lunch.

I’m the youngest of our tiny trio, and Dixie is the oldest. When I first met her, I thought I might need a translator, so foreign was her southern accent to me, the northerner. It was not immediately obvious to me that Dixie would come to hold a dear place in my heart.

Dixie likes to know everything about everyone, and I mean that in the best sense possible. Before long, she knew about my family, my career aspirations, you name it. And I knew, well, I knew she had been married, I knew she liked to laugh, and I found out that it would be best not to operate heavy machinery such as a car after eating her rum cake.

When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it seemed unfathomable to me that she couldn’t beat it. And beat it, she did. I have told many people facing grim prognoses that I know someone who has beaten the odds and is still around in all her glory today.

One time, when I was going to New York to visit my parents, Dixie asked me, “Well why would you want to go up there with all them Yankees?” I replied, “Those Yankees are my parents,” to which she responded, “Not them Yankees, them other Yankees!” Oh yes, Miss Dixie makes me laugh, and indeed lives up to her name.

When she doesn’t hear from me for a while, Dixie finds me. I swear she would find me in Timbuktu if necessary, just to make sure I’m alright. She likes getting updates and seeing pictures of my adorable niece, and when left up to her, our culinary choices usually involve a Meat & Three. If you are not from the South, let me explain what that is. A meat is usually an overcooked, unrecognizable piece of meat steeped in sauce for several hours or possibly days. And three refers to the number of side dishes you get. These can be equally unrecognizable overcooked vegetables (cooked in bacon grease, of course), macaroni and cheese, which is also considered a vegetable, and any number of other distincly southern things like turnip greens. It is always served cafeteria style and is reasonably priced. While I have been known to roll my eyes on occasion at the suggestion of such a place, damn if it doesn’t taste great. Nobody but a vegetarian doesn’t love a meat & three.

The last time I lunched with the ladies we went a different culinary route. We went to a new French restaurant owned by the son of another former employee. It was quite a distance away, but we had such a good time that we planned on coming back.

There was nothing unusual about this most recent lunch. We chatted for a long time, and indulged in a chocolate dessert that I’m still having dreams about. After talking for hours, as one of us usually did, I drove Dixie home. We hugged, said we loved each other, and talked about the next time we would do this. I drove away from Dixie’s house and back to my own. I did not know that this would be the last time I would see her.

Dixie died this morning, and I miss her already. I miss knowing that there will be another lunch, another chance to talk, and laugh, and share a little piece of our lives. I feel more alone in the world, though I know Dixie is in a place worthy of the light she was when she was here.

If I’ve learned anything from the time I spent with Dixie, it is to embrace the people whose paths cross ours, and to love and cherish the moments we get with them. I’m reminded to laugh heartily, and in the face of adversity, to defy the odds and live. I am glad there is one more angel on my shoulder, but sad for the shared times that can never be again. Mostly, I feel eternally grateful to have met and known Dixie. Rest in peace, my friend.

Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you and those you love.


  1. Wow, Ilene this is perfect! Weren't we lucky to know such a special person? Thank you so much for this tribute.

  2. Oh, Ilene, I am SO sorry for you loss. Dixie sounds like an amazing woman! So glad you got to spend the time with her that you did.

    Amy and I lost one of our closest friends a little over a month ago, and are feeling pretty much what you are. Our friend John was 43 years old, and for him to be gone at such a young age, especially when he was such a funny, strong and dominant personality, seems unfathomable. It really does make you reassess what - and who - you have in your life when something like this happens.

    Sending you many hugs on this sad day, my friend.


  3. And all the people were singing, they went naaa nanananana nanananananaaa. Dixie was indeed a unique person and a part of her will live forever through us.

  4. My Dear Ilene,

    I'm so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing her light with us in such a beautiful way. I also know, as you do, that the ones we love never leave us and I see her on your shoulder, loving how you share the wonderful light that is you with the world and delighting in all that you do.

  5. Hi Ilene,
    This is a fitting tribute to our speical friend Dixie! She was one of those people that once you've met them, you never forget them. Heaven is heavy today with a little tiny lady named Dixie with a great big HEART!
    Much love to you,
    Helen. A (One of your Sistahs)

  6. Ilene,

    Dixie was truly unique. I worked with her for years on video before I moved from UMPH to UMCOM. I hated that I missed the funeral,but she will always be remembered--as are her rum cake, her work ethics, and her kindness. C. Atkins