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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Old Friends - New Memories


Original Story Posted on May 20, 2008

There is something wonderful about old friends.  They turn up when you need them the most and when you least expect it.  I needed them most yesterday, and out-of-the-blue, three of them called.  We must have a sensory thing going on here because yesterday's phone calls were completely unexpected, and considering the kind of day I was having, they were a welcome gift to brighten my otherwise difficult day.

K -

OldFriendsNewMem1 First, K called.  We have been friends for 44 years, since 1964 and before the Kennedy assassination.  We haven't spoken on the phone in about 6 months - you know how life can get crazy and we just lose touch for what seems like an eternity until you hear their voice and then it seems like only moments since you spoke. 

My difficult day began with a new friend and a prediction of stormy weather (that will hopefully blow over soon) and ended with a great forecast of old friends and new memories.  K called out of the blue and when I saw her name on the caller ID I was filled with a flood of emotion.  I didn't even answer the phone with "Hello." It was more like "Oh My God! Oh My God! K I can't believe it is you!"  To which she replied "Yeap, that's you - How the hell are ya?!!" The minute we both started talking the laughter began. K is funny as hell, and if I need a good laugh, she can pull out all the stops - oh, right there along with another friend, D, but that is another crazy story for another day.  A conversation with K is better than Comedy Central.  My children think I have completely flipped my proverbial lid because I end up laughing so hard my eyes start to water - you know how it is for women at my age - we occasionally fart without warning and more embarrassing than that is the laughter, cough, or sneeze that reduces us to the bathroom with a need for clean underwear. K's call turned my tears of hurt and frustration into tears of joy and laughter. 

OldFriendsNewMem2 I've been really worried about K lately and every time I have called her over the past 6 months she has been at the doctor's office, asleep, or unable to talk.  She has been ill for a long time and her family history of illness and death could stand up to the tragic life and times of the Kennedy clan any day.  Still, she faces her challenges with a smile, integrity, and a sense of humor that is humbling.   K's veins are bleeding and bursting in her legs and back and she tells me that she looks like she was in a fight with Muhammad Ali and lost.  She has a blood clot in her left eye.  She has high blood pressure and nearly lost her life 20+ years ago due to a complication from medication that she was given for one condition that resulted in the discovery of a rare blood disease and endometriosis and a slew of tests like a lab mouse at NIH in Maryland.  She was one of only 3 others in the United States with this rare blood disease.  It also resulted in her lying in a coma for what seemed an eternity.  On one of the days I visited her when she was at home recovering, her pastor was there giving her her last rights and praying over her.  She couldn't speak a word and all we could see was the "I don't want to die" emotion spilling from her beautiful blue eyes.  Oh, I prayed hard that day, harder than I have ever prayed before.  Life wasn't fair for K, and she was only 27!

She recovered, but K was never to be the same physically.  Still, she was alive - for her famliy who loved her, for her friends who adored her, for her husband who cherished her, and for her daughter who needed her.  God answered our prayers. 

WomanPraying K called to ask me yesterday for more prayers.  "You got it girlfriend.  I've got what I hope to believe is an inside track to the Almighty One - Faith - and you can best believe He is going to hear my prayer."  I am praying for a miracle right now and if anyone is reading this - Pray will ya?!!!!!! God will know who K is.

K will be having surgery at John's Hopkins in Baltimore the first week of June.  In the meantime, she is driving to Georgia to visit her sister and niece for a family graduation celebration and wanted to swing by here with her husband of 30 years.  (No, her husband is not 30 years old, although I'm sure K believes he behaves like it at times.  They've been married for that many years). "Are you kidding?!!! I'm changing the sheets, scrubbing the toilets, and cookin' up some good southern dish just for you (well, I take that back, my husband, Bob, will be doing the cooking since I hate cooking and he is so good at it).  You better not change your plans or I'm going to have to hunt you down," I said to K.

She is facing more complicated challenges right now and will hopefully have her doctor's blessings to make this trip.  So, that was friend #1 who brightened my day and will hopefully be stopping by next week to make some new memories.

A -

About an hour after I hung up from K, the doorbell rang.  My dog, Adolf, our German shepherd, is barking like crazy, so I saunter to the door and I don't see anyone there.  I opened the door and to my left was this huge box.  I knew what was in it and was as excited as a 5 year old child at Christmas.  I drag it into my house surrounded by 3 bouncing children and I grab something sharp, beginning to tear into it with enough enthusiasm to put my children's excitement to shame.   Then again, they had no idea what was in the box and I did -  you know how kids are.  They love surprises.

SaturdayNightFever A and I have been friends since 1974 and the arrival of Disco dancing, Saturday Night Fever, and the BeeGees.  Memories of raging hormones, bad dates, big hair, good-lookin' guys in fresh white uniforms at the Naval Academy abound.  What a great friend A was during those years and she still is.  She has, also, had her share of challenges, health issues, near death experiences, divorce, and more, since we've known each other which seems like a lifetime. 

Well, A is living out west now and doesn't seem all that happy about it.   She is also an artist and a darn good one too.  I am so proud of her.  And "that" is what was in the box!  A 36x36 painting of a Blooming Peacock that is absolutely magnificent!  A needed a web presence for her artwork and I enthusiastically designed and built for her an online studio to showcase her magnificent work.  The colors and character of this Peacock is to die for.  I couldn't wait to call her and tell her I received the painting in perfect condition and was so thrilled to hang it in my music room so that everyone who entered our home would see it first thing when they look to the left. 

Peacock in Bloom.IMG_4263_edited-1 A wrote a beautiful dedication to me on the back of the painting and the entire experience shriveled me to tears.  Being that I had already been crying was making it nearly impossible for me to see it clearly.  So I gathered my emotions and gave her a call.  "So you like it?" she says to me. "LIKE IT?!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!  It is the most beautiful painting I have ever seen!  The colors are magnificent, the detail is bold and brilliant, and the Peacock is looking right at me and smiling!" I answered.  I swear that painting has an energy about it that gives me goosebumps.  This painting is absolutely beautiful.  I can't believe she gave it to me.  A told me that it had been sold twice before but for some reason had fallen thru both times and had been hanging in her music room with her baby grand piano which is where it would hang proudly in my home too - in our music room beside our baby grand piano. She said "Susan, that painting was meant for you.  I painted it for you.  It has always belonged to you and that is why it never left me until it was the right time to come home - to you."  Her paintings are each like a child to her.

I was overwhelmed to say the least.  A and I talked for over an hour and she is making plans to visit in the next 2 months.  A week or more of site-seeing, spas, plein air painting, and new memories.  A is going to school to become a minister and I cannot think of anyone who would make a better minister - someone who has seen the frightening side of life, the sorrowful side of family, the sad side to marriage, and the lonely side to being alone in the middle of the desert with no family, a broken marriage to a man she loved dearly, and no children to kiss goodnight.  A is a very special person and a very dear friend.

After our call, I hung her painting in my music room and will soon be taking it to be framed.  I can't help but look at it and smile.  Colors have a way of bringing about certain emotions, and the colors in this painting are what I call "happy colors."  They sing brightly and spiritedly and are full of positive energy. 

M -

Annapolis Within a couple of hours the phone rang again, and this time it was my friend and former husband, M. M is my first real love, my first real boyfriend, my first lot of things.  Old memories of raging hormones and dating in Annapolis. M and I met in 1976.  Some 32 years ago.  M lives about 10 minutes from us and is very dear to me as well.  We have a daughter together too, and she is 29 and living in Florida.  M is doing well and visits when he can.  He works a lot of hours and never seems to have the time for anything except eat, sleep, and work.  I am concerned he is working himself to death, but he is in great shape and appears to be healthy and happy, so that is a good sign. 

It is always nice to hear from M.  He makes me smile and makes me laugh.  It wasn't always that way, but we were both crazy all those years ago, and we loved each other enough to let by-gones be by-gones and not live our lives filled with regrets and bitterness. I value my friends and have always believed the adage that you should treat your friends like family and your family like friends.  If you do, your life will be blessed.  And for good reason - because a life filled with regret and bitterness will make you sick.  It will eat at you till it kills you.  Forgiveness is the healthiest thing we can ever do for ourselves and the people in our lives.  It strengthens relationships and teaches us humility.  As for M, I look back on our life together with fondness for the good times we had and for the struggles we shared.  I accept them for what they were - difficult.  I learned a lot from those tough years.  The forgiveness we both have brought to our relationship has added to the stability we feel towards each other.  M is good friends with my husband too, and they go riding around town on their harleys.  He just got back from a business trip and wanted to catch up with life at our house.  It is always good to hear from M

Old couple M asked me the strangest question when I was 17 and we were out on a date at a jazz bar in Annapolis.  He said "What are you going to look like at 64?"    "Uuuuuh, beautiful and magnificent of course" I replied. How the heck do I know!  M is notorious for asking the unusual, and meaning something entirely different.  It keeps the conversation interesting, that's for sure.  Fortunately, at the rate we are going as friends, we will know what we look like at 64.  It may not be a pretty site but I can only hope and pray neither one of us is 6 feet under at the age of 64. 

All in all I am truly blessed.  I do not have a jealous husband.  Thank God.  Because I remain friends with M and we trust each other completely.  I would hate to think that I would have to sacrifice any relationship that was life changing and fundamentally important to me because of petty jealousies.  My dear husband has supported me thru many things, but we have never questioned our marriage, our relationship, our commitment, or our own friendship in a way that would prevent us from remaining close to those who have been important to us since our childhood and continue to be important to us.   

I suppose honesty and trust play a big part in the forming of a lasting marriage.  One thing I have learned from my failed marriages (Yes, there have been, unfortunately, 2 prior) and the successful marriage I am blessed with now is filled with Trust and Friendship.  It isn't always a great day together and there have been many times, and will continue to be times, when we are so upset we want to punch each other in the nose, but BlueRidgeMountains we know what buttons are in the red-zone and we know how to avoid an argument by walking away and redirecting the conversation.  If you really love each other, I believe that no event in life should be so life shattering that you have to sever your relationship entirely because of a disagreement.  If that happens, it never really was the kind of relationship that a lifetime of memories are built on. 

It takes many things to build a mountain of memories with someone you love, and  sometimes, just sometimes, it takes an earthquake to create a stronger mountain of new memories.

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