There are people who stay with you all through your life. They have given your life meaning and purpose. They have been at your side and in your heart. They are here and now, they have been every so often, or once in a blue moon. They have been birth-to-death, with you no matter what, and you can’t imagine life without them. Whether they are a spouse or friend, we all have one. I have K.
I spent the first 5 years of my life in small Connecticut towns. My mother is from a small Connecticut town; my dad is from a similar town in Massachusetts five miles away. As I gained a brother and two sisters, we could have to move to a larger apartment or house. When I was 3 years old, I lived in West Suffield, across the street from a girl with whom I’d have a life-long connection.
K and I have been close friends for most of our lives. She mostly hung out with my sister and I was “allowed” to tag along. She would be a constant in the summers my family would spend with my grandparents – my mother’s family. We could be found in swimming holes, running through cow pastures, and riding in the back of my grandfather’s puke-green Chevy pick-up truck, singing “Angel of the Morning”. She told me those were the most memorable times of her life.
A few weeks back, my mom had called me on a Saturday, asking me if it was okay if she coould give K’s mom my email address. My mom and K’s mom graduated high school in the same class, and had stayed in contact through the years. They would have lunch whenever my mother was in town, which the latest was a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure why she needed my permission, but I told mom to pass the address along. A few days later, I received the first of many emails from K.
She’s had a tough life. Once a promising artist/designer, she’s battled her share of demons; bad choices in men and the fallout of those relationships. She teeters between confident career woman and insecure girl. She carries the burden of single mother and sole provider, and she lost her best friend to a heart attack last fall. Needless to say, she was in need of a friend when we reconnected.
The last time I saw K was at my wedding reception in 1987. She still had the fresh, youthful face that has since been replaced by one affected by her hard life. I dug out my wedding video ( I have it because my late grandparents are in the video ) to refresh my memory. She was cute – just this side of hot – and it made me wonder why our relationship didn’t turn romantic. I recall visiting her on a summer break from college. We took a six-pack of beer out to the airport and sat at the end of one runway, watching the planes fly over. I had tried to kiss her but that resulted in a most humiliating result – she laughed. It was until last week that I learned that she had harbored a huge crush on me.
After numerous phone calls and emails, we arranged to meet. She would come to Maine and buy me dinner if I’d show her the art museum and Winslow Homer’s studio in nearby Scarborough. It was a no-brainer. She stayed with me and we talked, drank, laughed and dug into the deepest parts of our being to talk about fears. For her it was the fear of growing old and being alone; for me it was the fear of getting sick and not having someone to care for me. We agreed that if we were still alone by age 60, we would get together. It was a wonderful time.
We all have the same shit. Some of us get it all at once; others get it bit by bit. It’s more tolerable if we have someone to share it with. It always seems less shitty.