Carleen Hutchins made it through 98 years. Passed away in 2009. We should all be so lucky. To find work that is gratifying enough to do up until the end is difficult. Mostly we tote that bale until we don’t have to anymore, and then retire to the bottom six inches of Satan’s shower curtain, otherwise known as Florida.
She had enough cred to get an obituary in the NYT, so I guess other people thought she was somebody. I would have anyway. One happens upon people like Carleen from time to time. I never knew she was alive until after she was gone. Your life overlaps with so many other lives, but you don’t often know it, or have the wherewithal to do anything about it when it matters. I began reading P.G. Wodehouse stories a while back. There was an other-worldly vibe to them, of course, and it was kind of jarring to think that I could have driven to Long Island when I was younger and waited on Basket Neck lane (I wrote that address from memory, I wonder if it’s correct; I can’t remember the town) and seen Pelham Grenville walking to the Post Office to mail his stories to the publisher. It’s like being told that Napoleon or George Washington or Shakespeare was at the pub just now, and you could go play darts with them if you hurry. But of course your interest in such people is of the rear-view mirror kind — Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
I would have liked to talk to Carleen, but I only found out about her today. I may run out of time, but I’ll keep trying to make you all wish you had talked to me.