Even though we kept a close watch on Franyo after her debacle with Harold Ganz, predators continued to circle. One was her hairdresser, a very nice Korean man who convinced her she should write a twenty thousand dollar check for his two-year-old son’s college education (the check was stopped by the bank). Harold dropped out of her life once he realized she had a new lawyer and there was nothing to be gained from his association with her. We tried to undo his handiwork, but eighteen months after the sale of my parents’ beloved African art collection, it was too late. And the new owners were inflexible. They’d gotten the collection for a song: why would they waver?
Franyo continued living with quite a bit of independence for another five years. Her looks were important to her. She’d always told us her skin was so smooth and beautiful because she massaged it every night. (Yeah, right. Not a single sign of sag at her eyes, nose, mouth or neck.) At eighty-four she announced she’d in fact had four face lifts, and would now have the final one. Her hands, however, were gnarled and misshapen from arthritis. She’d had to give up painting because of the pain in her fingers, but the creative force was still with her and she used those fingers to put together some of the most beautiful bead necklaces I’ve ever seen.
She continued to travel to Paris every year. Somewhere in her mid-eighties she discovered the Hampton Jitney and though a limousine would have been far more comfortable and convenient, thought nothing of “hopping the bus” to Amagansett to visit friends. She visited me in Austin and Vivi in her lakeside country house in upstate New York. She loved good restaurants, dressing well, being seen. But her life was winding down. In her late eighties she began to go out less and less. By ninety she wouldn’t go out at all.
Her apartment became her universe, and Inez, her beloved housekeeper, became her caregiver, boss, and custodian of memories. As agreed, the art pieces were removed from the walls – an event that occurred the year she turned ninety and refused ever to go out in the world again. By then her mind was too far gone for her to notice. It was we who mourned the loss, visiting her in an apartment that now seemed stripped of life, barren. And with this barrenness you would think Franyo’s story should come to an end. But, as I was to discover, the end was when “stuff” happened. The most important and transformative part of our relationship was yet to come.
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**Need to start at the beginning? Find Part 1 here!
Beautiful and inspiring.