We were in the Art Circle at the St. Matthew’s-Maryland Drop-in. It met regularly Thursday afternoons. Most of the dozen artists sitting around the horseshoe table were painting with watercolours. I was making a banner.

A new person was there. She looked interesting. She was painting a red and green floral scene with acryllics. She had come at the invitation of a mutual artist friend. Little did I know it would lead to the second act in both our lives.

Her name was Anne-Shirley Clough. Sitting next to me, we chatted about the artworks we were working on.

Conversation turned to our residences. She lived in Winnipeg’s culturally diverse North End on McAdam Avenue in the shadow of Rosh Pina Synagogue (it has a new name).

I lived upstairs in the WestEnd Commons, a marvelous old Anglican church converted into 26 residential suites. Mine was on the fourth floor. Would she like to come and see it?

Not today. Her son was coming to get her.

A week later she came to Art Circle again. We both made sure we sat together.

“I can come upstairs with you today,” she said at the end of the session. “I have my own car.”

So I took her up and showed her my apartment with it’s 40-foot arched ceiling left untouched during reconstruction.

But that was not nearly as interesting as her house, which I visited two weeks later. It was a virtual museum, filled with more than 200 Reliable (brand name) dolls, her paintings on the walls, and antique gadgets hanging on hooks in the kitchen. Her art room had 10 cabinets filled with old dishes, flower vases, more dolls and an array of monkey statues (see no evil…).

We watched a movie and I went home.

It did not take long for us to begin liking each other. The stories we tell now have piled up during the last seven years, and life is good.

Day trips, meals in restaurants and concerts keep us busy, as do our artistic interests. I write and paint. Anne-Shirley paints and loves her three cats.

The Art Circle we used to attend closed down because of Covid-19, but we’re joining another one.

Early in our friendship we attended a grieving class to honour our past spouses, me after 12 years and she after 16 living single. We have promised to honour each other’s past relationships while enjoying the second act.

Irvin James Kroeker

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