by Barb, listening to the gulls outside her window and feeling wistful
In normal circumstances, eulogies come after a person is gone, which has always seemed like a terrible waste to me. And because my friend Lea Wait has been so incredibly open and generous about this part of her life, the last part, I have decided to be open as well.
Lea Wait is my friend and I will miss her terribly.
Lea probably doesn’t even remember the first time we corresponded. I was the editor of the Sisters in Crime New England newsletter and I reached out to her to see if we could feature an interview with her. I don’t know exactly when this was, but it was when the newsletter was still laid out in Quark, printed at a printer, and stuffed into envelopes with labels and stamps, so you do the math.
Lea graciously replied and answered my interview questions. She was a former executive with AT&T, the single mother of four daughters, adopted when they were older from four different countries. By the time of the interview, she was a published author, living in Maine full-time with her relatively new husband. I thought, “This woman is really cool.”
Over the next few years, I got to know Lea a little bit more, through Sisters in Crime New England and the New England Crime Bake, but she wasn’t much more than an acquaintance in 2010, when things changed for me. Suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly freed from my corporate job, I finally had the prospect of spending an extended period of time in Maine. My first novel was scheduled to be published that September. I had a new and different life to figure out.
Our house was in Boothbay Harbor, and Lea was in Edgecomb just up the road. I don’t know what caused me to do it, because it is completely unlike me, but I sent her an e-mail saying I was in the area and would love to get together. Lea wrote back an incredibly warm e-mail (I still have it) and invited my husband Bill and me to dinner at her house.
We went to that dinner and the rest, as they say, is history. We just clicked. I liked Lea’s husband Bob a lot, Bill liked Lea, and Bill and Bob got on like a house afire. Lea and Bob were fun companions, fabulous to eat and drink and converse with. We never ran out of things to talk about.
But more than that, they were just a little older than us, and several steps ahead of us. I remember saying to Bill as we drove home that first night, “A writer and an artist living in Maine. It can be done.” I meant, “We could do that, too.”
Lea and I corresponded and talked and visited pretty constantly after that. We had a lot in common, past corporate jobs, this blog, and eventually even the same agent and editor. Basically, we were two women from north Jersey who had fallen in love with Maine, albeit in different decades and in different ways.
In addition to their friendship and support and their modeling of a life I at one time could only dream about, Lea and Bob affected Bill’s life and my life in two very specific ways.
It was Lea who told me the story of how one of her daughters had her wedding reception on a private island off Boothbay Harbor where a family ran a clambake. So when my agent and I had a call to go through possible pitches to publishers, and he said the word, “clambake,” I was off and running and never looked back.
When Bill started doing digital photography seriously, Bob, who was a photographer before he turned to painting, was incredibly encouraging to Bill, telling him he had an eye, critiquing his work, always generously. It was Bob who introduced Bill to the world of the visual arts. He told Bill about the place where photography competitions were posted, which is what led Bill to be a finalist in a competition and have his photograph exhibited at the Naples Art Association gallery.
Thank you, Lea and Bob. Without you our lives quite literally would not be the same.
The last time we saw Bob was in December. Bill and I had come to Boothbay for the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s holiday light show, Gardens Aglow. Afterward we met Lea and Bob at Ports of Italy, a favorite restaurant for all four of us. We had a delicious dinner and talked the night away. I would guess, from the timing, that it was one of Bob’s last nights out like that.
And that’s how I choose to remember them both, under a clear sky on a cold, starry night, saying goodnight in the parking lot. Saying good-bye.