I met Shirley last spring. Her sister Evie, who I know from Rotary, introduced us by way of her Friday bridge group of which I’m now a regular part.

Shirley moved back east from her retirement village in Arizona when her husband died a couple years ago. She lives in the house on their family farm. Evie says it’s actually her house now, but since Evie lives with her common-law husband in town she’s happy for her sister to keep the old place occupied.

Before she retired she’d been a school teacher. High school math. She still carries herself like a math teacher, too. She’s not large or loud, but her straight back and piercing eyes scream, “Pay attention!” Naturally, she’s the bridge group’s official score-keeper.

It’s only been in the past month she decided to stay permenantly in the farmhouse. She’d been reserving her option to move back to Arizona. I can’t say I blame her. The brutal Adirondack winters are enough to make anyone wonder why they should stay when they have a perfectly good house in the desert southwest.

Shirley has a dog, Honey. It’s one of those little yappy poofters. Someone gave it to her because it’s so yappy. I suppose they thought she needed a watch dog, since otherwise she’d be there all alone. And they do make good company for each other. She treats it like a two year old grandchild and we all indulge her thinking of it that way. She doesn’t have any human children or grandchildren.

In the fall for the two years she’s been here she hosts a harvest dinner for the Rotary club. Last year I was out of town that evening and missed it. She did venison chili. This Wednesday she’s doing a ham dinner. She does all the cooking. Club members are allowed to bring a few of the trimmings, like pickles and dinner roles. She hosts it at the farmhouse.

Every week after the bridge game she serves dessert. It’s nearly always something that takes a lot of doing. Pie. Cheesecake. That sort of thing. It’s always good. We get done right before dinner, but she insists that dessert must follow bridge. She doesn’t say where she got her education in cooking. Years of practice, as near as I can tell. But who she’s been cooking for all these years, with no family other than her late husband and her sister — that remains a mystery.