Q: How do you know that you are getting old?
A: Most of the policemen are younger than you, all the baseball players are younger than you and your friends die of natural causes.
My friend Inga died over the weekend, quite suddenly, from a heart problem I am told.
She was in Austria with her her husband, Wolfgang. Wolfgang is my friend too. Wolfgang is from Austria.
Inga was 61. We have known each other for about 25 years. She was an artist. Also, she and her husband started a little baking business in a 500 square foot store front. Today that business employs in excess of 100 people over two industrial grade baking facilities.
When I had my little gourmet store in Somerville, MA in the early 80's, I did business with Wolfgang and Inga. That is how our friendship started. Our whole life was before us. When I got too far behind on my bread bill, Inga would call me up and say, “Hey send some money.” I always liked sending Inga money.
Later on, upon the birth of my first daughter, I left the little gourmet store in Somerville behind. I never made more than $5,000 a year in salary. I needed to make more to take care of my daughter. Yet, Wolfgang and Inga remained friends even though my little high end food store in a low end, working class neighborhood didn't make it. We went beyond commerce. We understood that there were people in those businesses, not resources. When the business went away, the people remained, the friendships remained. And, if fortune had it that the business survives and prospers, well that was good too. But, more than anything, Inga always seemed to be about people and art.
In her forties, Inga had a daughter, almost coinciding with the birth of my second daughter. She told me that Wolfgang needed a kid to calm him down.
I always like Inga. She always like me. The last time I saw her was in December 2002. Strangely, I had been living in Austria at the time and I came back for a visit, with an Austrian woman friend. It's poetic that that little country with only eight million people and not much industry save for Red Bull and AKG should loom so large in our landscape.
During that visit we had a big meal and joked a lot. We compared daughters. Her daughter was spending a year in Latvia at the time. Inga was born in Latvia and grew up in Boston. She had a strong Boston accent. She said, “thurd” for third, “forwuh” for four and “ahht” for art.
Now she is gone. And in her absence the statement, life is short, takes on more significant meaning. Inga was a good, creative, caring, bright woman. I always liked her and she always liked me.
I grieve her passing.
May her soul rest in peace.