By mid-life, so many of us have lost at least one friend.
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the death of my best friend from childhood. She was the same age (give or take three months) then as I am now.
I am going to a special ceremony later this month to honor her memory, and I've been thinking: if I am asked to share a special memory of her, what would it be?
I can't say for sure, because there are so many.
I met her for the first time when she moved to my neighborhood in 5th grade, and she ended up in my class. I don't remember befriending her, but, we somehow hit it off. Those memories of knowing her in childhood and teenager hood are running in my mind like a feature movie.
Her parents were Holocaust survivors. Needless to say, they didn't talk to anyone much about it, but you knew. Children know, somehow. And that has to have influenced the person my friend became. Loving. Faithful. Determined.
Her father owned a full service gas station that also fixed cars, as so many stations did in those days before the 1973 gas crisis, and the advent of self-serve gasoline. She showed a flair for mechanics. I can still remember the time she fixed my vacuum cleaner.
After my mother died a month short of my 13th birthday, her mother showed me how to do laundry and how to do other household tasks. Sometimes she acted as a surrogate mother to me, as did my friend. My friend loved children so much; she took me right under her wing. She even forgave me for getting a better score on the Math Regents (a standardized end of year test given in New York State) than she did, thanks to her tutoring.
I didn't tutor her in her weak subject. Instead, her family hired a tutor. She ended up marrying him. The marriage lasted 43 years.
Her grandfather lived in upstate New York with his disabled brother, in a house he purchased after World War II. It was at that house that I encountered my very first vegetable garden. I ate so many raw peas, amazed at the taste, that I became sick afterwards. There were other aspects of country life her family allowed me to share with them, letting me stay with them for a week in between my last year of high school and first year of college.
There isn't enough room on my blog for all my memories. 53 years of memories, to be exact.
In November of 2011, my friend was diagnosed with lung cancer, possibly (we'll never know) caused or aggravated by exposure to 9/11 smoke. She was already a cancer survivor (ovarian cancer) and, due to her having reached the lifetime exposure limit of the chemo she took for that cancer, she couldn't receive the normal first line treatment. What she did take caused so many side effects. She fought back by hiring a personal trainer and didn't hesitate to share what she was undergoing with me. She participated on online support groups and supported so many others.
I want to remember my friend as one of the most courageous women I have had the privilege of meeting.
I hope you will come back tomorrow, and share my tribute.