The summons came in the late Fall around 2007. You're invited to breakfast. My wife Cindy and I had been asked to breakfast by our neighbor, Paddy Wazan. Paddy and her husband Hank lived in a unique house across the street, a contemporary built during the Sixties to Hank's specifications, complete with a classic New England living room and a garden one could see through the glass behind the dining area in the middle of the house. On this morning, we weren't the only guests; another couple from in town had also been invited. We all sat around the breakfast table, which filled with vivid conversations, fueled by wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. Soon a brunch was served -- replete with eggs, pastries, bacon, fruit, strong coffee and juice. We hadn't seen Paddy very much since we'd moved onto the street, since she spent her summers in Nantucket and would come back to our town of Norfolk for the winters. Paddy had loads of energy and loved hosting guests and cooking delicious meals. Hank was a quiet man, but loved doing projects and had a background in architecture. They were a generation older than us, but good neighbors.
As I write this, another nine years have elapsed and so much has happened since then. This was one of our early introductions to Paddy, but we got a glimpse of her vitality and artistry in the kitchen during that breakfast and on other occasions where she would host groups large and small. In 2009, all of this changed. Hank was diagnosed with cancer and within weeks he had passed. Paddy came back from Nantucket and had to re-build her life without having her beloved Hank by her side. The sad occasion brought our families closer together, as Cindy helped Paddy get organized when she decided to sell the house in Norfolk and I would help Paddy with whatever computer needs she had.
In time, the Norfolk house was sold, but we soon received the first of many invites to her new abode, a two-story apartment in Wellesley. She would get in touch with Cindy and we take the jaunt across a few towns to her place. Food was a common theme; she always seemed to have a delicious meal waiting for us. She had also struck up a relationship with our son Jason and their fifty some year age difference didn't stop them from becoming fast friends.
Paddy loved to travel and would regale us with tales of her trips to places like Australia and Japan. Over time, she'd met people from all over the world and was quick to make a plan and take a trip to see these far flung friends. As she got to know Jason better, she insisted that she would make a visit to see him in his adopted town of Asheville, North Carolina, where he was studying at the local college UNC at Asheville and producing remarkable art. So, in the fall of 2011, our family made plans to visit Jason in Asheville and Paddy arranged to visit during the same time period, just a few days before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving that year was special. We all arrived at Jason's house in West Asheville, which he shared with three roommates from UNCA and immediately got to work cleaning and making preparations for the Thanksgiving feast. Paddy was a guest, but she had definite ideas about what food we would need and we got a few additional provisions at a supermarket down the street. Paddy took command of the process of cooking the bird and she had several other ideas about what needed to go with it. I can remember sitting on the porch in a rocking chair and smelling the enticing mix of foods, both traditional and vegetarian. Later we all sat down for the meal and it was one of the best ones in our memory, as Paddy had worked her culinary magic in a strange kitchen and produced a delicious and diverse meal.
During the next year, Paddy invited us to visit her on Nantucket, so Jason, Cindy and I hopped on a ferry from Hyannis and took our first voyage to Nantucket. Nantucket is an amazing place and we found that Paddy had a charming two story apartment she called the Snuggery hear the harbor. We were staying at a bed and breakfast place nearby, but passed on the regular breakfast to join Paddy for a shared meal at her home. Over the weekend, Paddy took us all around Nantucket and we had a fabulous time. Here is a picture of Paddy with Cindy and Jason on the beach.
Our family had many other fine visits with Paddy over these years. Whether we were meeting at her apartment for brunch or sharing a lunch at a local seafood restaurant, there was always much to talk about. Paddy tended to be feisty and unstoppable. She had the occasional health issue, but exhibited marvelous resilience and came back from many challenges and then would set out to yet another destination. Last winter we met at her house and she told us about a planned trip to Africa. A few months later, she came back and told us about it; she'd gone on safari and seen so much else on a trip to South Africa.
We were looking forward to seeing her again when she came back to Wellesley in the late Fall, but heard unfortunate news in mid-October. She'd had a relapse in a bout with cancer and was flown back from Nantucket to a Boston hospital. After so many times of pushing back illnesses and other incidents, she'd finally reached a point where she was beyond treatment. She did return to her home in Wellesley under hospice care and she said her goodbyes over a couple of weeks. She passed away about a week ago and we attended her memorial service and a reception yesterday. Friends and family gathered, and we all told stories about her, the many times we had met and about her unrelenting zest for life. Paddy will be missed, but will also live on in our memories as a treasured friend and remarkable example of a well-lived life. One of her friends called her "the hostess with the mostest." Yes. Here is a picture of Paddy with Cindy and Jason in front of her Nantucket apartment. Au revoir dear friend.