Annie

bestie

On Sunday, Ann, my good friend of 50 years, “relocated”.

She moved out of a body that had been slowly failing over the past couple of years due to COPD and found better accommodations.  Far better.

She leaves behind her adoptive mother, two early 30-something daughters, and two adorable grandchildren.  FYI, her daughters and grandchildren have her fiery red hair.

It’s awesome.

When we met as sophomores in high school in 1968, we were very much opposites.   AGMA was quite shy, reserved and sort of boring.  Ann was gregarious, outgoing and talented.  She had an incredible zest for life.

I think we got to know each other because had the same lunch schedule, and hung out together in the cafeteria.

AGMA once snorted out – through my mouth and nose – a huge mouthful of cherry slushy onto Annie’s parent’s car’s dashboard and windshield.  All over.  She’d said something really funny right after I took a serious slurp of slushy.

We were that kind of friends.

When we were juniors, she tried to fix me up with a friend of her boyfriend.  The only criteria for the fix-up was that I was shorter than the young man.  The relationship didn’t last.  Thankfully…

Annie and I stayed in touch though college and beyond though we lived many states apart.

She came to my wedding and I went to hers.

She had two daughters; AGMA had two sons.  We sent each other birth announcements.

We only saw each other at decade separated high school reunions.

We were on track for one of those, “we were friends in high school, but we have nothing in common now so we’ll just send an annual Christmas card” type of relationships.

Then in 2003, both Annie and AGMA’s lives sort of fell apart.  Different reasons, different circumstances; but semi-devastating to both of us.

And Ann and I started a whole new friendship.  It was a relationship like I’ve had with nobody else in my life.  We shared heart wrenching, soul exposing emails and telephone conversations.  We cried together.  And occasionally we laughed together.  She had a wonderful laugh!

We truly listened to each other.  We were brutally honest with each other.  We didn’t judge each other.  We shared words of wisdom with each other.  We confessed to each other.  We forgave each other.

We shared grace with each other.

AGMA came out on the other side of my crisis a few years later relatively okay.

But for my sweet Annie, it was only the beginning of the domino cascade.

Her husband of 25 years left her.  And was very, very nasty about it.

Her father passed away.

She lost her full-time job during the recession.  In her mid-50’s, she couldn’t find another FT job so had to take part-time jobs with no benefits to survive financially.

Her aging mother, with whom Annie had a lifetime contentious relationship, was no longer able to care for her large house in another state.  Ann helped her mom sell her house and moved Mom in with her.   It was a difficult transition.   And didn’t improve with time.

A lifetime smoker, Annie was diagnosed with COPD.

The last time I saw Ann was in 2012, at her daughter’s wedding in Michigan.  Together, we looked like Jack Sprat and his wife.  She was exceedingly thin and AGMA was this pudgy lump.  The picture is priceless!  It was a beautiful wedding and Annie was so very happy.

AGMA tried to convince her to come to our 45th high school reunion in 2016, but by then, the COPD was taking over her body.  She wouldn’t go.  She wanted everybody, including me, to remember her as she was.

It broke my heart.

But boy, was she a fighter!  She nearly died in late 2017.  Her older daughter was pregnant with her second child.  It was Annie’s fighting spirit that kept her alive until her sweet little redheaded grand daughter was born and then some.

AGMA found out in mid-December that Ann was under hospice care.  Her daughter said it would be okay to try call her.  Annie may or may not be able to talk with me depending on what kind of day she was having.

Lots of days were bad days.

It was one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made.  But I’m so very glad I made it.  I even got to hear her laugh.  I told her I loved her.  In a weak voice she told me she loved me too.

I cried like a baby as soon as I hung up.

It’s only now, after she’s transitioned, do I fully realize how incredibly special and unique our friendship was.

AGMA has been greatly blessed.

I’ll be making that 800 mile trip on Friday to say my final goodbye to her.

But I’m pretty sure she said her goodbye to me…

On Sunday, the day she passed away, AGMA awakened in the wee hours of the morning.  I felt this weird sensation and saw a brief – I mean instantaneously brief – flash of light.  At the time, I wondered it Ann had died and she was visiting me before moving on.  I chalked that thought up to AGMA dramatic middle of the night cray cray.

But when I found out Sunday afternoon that she passed in the early hours of the morning that day, I knew…

Thanks Annie!

Save me a spot in the lunchroom beside you dear friend….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postus interruptus

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

 

So the next post I was planning to do was the third and final post on my recent trip to Europe.  I know you can’t wait.

ZZzzzz….

Well, you dodged a bullet.  For the moment.  I’m going to Plan B.

Do you remember the little kids song…  “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, but the other’s gold.”?

This past weekend I did an emergency trip to Cincinnati for one of those golden  friends.

A dear old friend of over thirty years who has become estranged over the last couple of years for reasons unknown to me, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s.  Her mom was like a 2nd mom to me for many years.

In this African-American family, I was the 4th, pale-skinned sister.  Miss Waldine made sure that I belonged.  She called me (and countless others) her “precious child”.  And I believed her.

There was no way I wasn’t going to be there for my estranged, yet ever golden friend to honor her amazing, loving mother.

Sound weird?  I thought it would be.

It wasn’t.

Turns out, when there’s a death in the family, the stupid things that separate you from life friends go out the window…

For those of you without a great grasp of U.S. geography, Cincinnati is about 470 miles (757km) and an 8 hour drive from Atlanta.  Google Maps says it’s 7 hours, but Google maps doesn’t know about the rain in the mountains just north  of Knoxville or the stand still traffic around Renfrow Valley.

Ugh.

So I spent 16 total hours driving up there on Friday and back on Saturday. I  only spent 17 hours in Cincinnati.

Crazy.  Yup – AGMA crazy.

But maybe not just AGMA crazy.  Maybe it’s just what lifetime friends do for other lifetime friends.  Irregardless if they have been pissy and weird with us.

It’s all about the love.  It’s always been all about the love.

When I got up there on Friday, my estranged friend seemed to have forgotten or at least put aside what she felt was the great divide between us.  I’m still not sure what it as all about. But there was no trace of it on Friday.

When I showed up at her house on Friday evening, she treated me like a sister.  Like we have always been.  Like it should always be.

On Friday there were hugs and tears and reunions and laughter.

I got caught up on her family.   This was quite revelatory since I’ve talked to her maybe 60 minutes total in the last 4 years.  During those 4 dry years, I’d ask about her husband and kids and grandkids and the rest of the family, and got the “They’re all fine.” answer.

Guess what?  They weren’t all fine.  And some of them still aren’t fine.  It all came spilling out.

I wasn’t going to bring up the last 4 years if she didn’t.  And she didn’t.

The family visitation Saturday morning was yet another chance to see other family members I hadn’t seen in years.  He son, her sister, her niece who’s like a daughter….  Kids who were itty bitty the last time I saw them now towered over me.

Honestly, where does the time go?

I said my goodbyes to her before the memorial service started because it wouldn’t be over when I needed to leave to head back home.  As we hugged each other tightly for nearly two minutes, the tears started to flow.  Both of us.  I made her promise that we wouldn’t lose touch again.  I told her I loved Miss Waldine.  I told her I loved her.

One of these days, I’ll ask her about the long, dry spell.  One of these days.

But not anytime soon.

“…one is silver, but the other’s gold.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great horny toads!

yosemitesam

I was in Texas a few weeks ago.

Despite what you’ve heard, they actually do let non-Texans into the state.  But you need a valid U.S. passport.  And a non-Hawaiian birth certificate to prove you were born in a state in the mainland U.S. or Alaska after it was admitted to the Union.  And a notarized statement saying you aren’t part of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy to take over Texas and turn abandon Walmart’s into resistance detention centers.  With shackles.  OMG…

Some friends warned me not to go.  They were afraid some of the “Texas crazy” would rub off on me.  I’m already full up with AGMA crazy.  I wasn’t worried.

Besides, I used to live in Texas.  Sort of.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I went to college in Ft. Worth.  Back when it still really lived up to it’s nickname, Cowtown.  The massive stockyards were still in operation and honest-to-goodness cowboys walked the streets.

I went to Texas Christian University as a freshman in 1971.  Yes, I was a proud Horned Frog.  We called ourselves horny toads.  Ribbit.

Pittsburgh, PA, where I grew up, is about 1250 miles away from Ft. Worth.  But it was more like a million miles away from anything I had experienced.  It was like landing on Mars.

“Do not run; we are your friends…”

First of all, people talked with a strange accent and drank Dr. Pepper.  Then there were the folks on campus who wore cowboy hats and boots as part of their normal, everyday clothing.  Nobody understood my charming Pittsburghese, and they served Mexican food in the cafeteria.  And there were lots of girls with big hair who always wore loads of make-up and always dressed up for class.

I fit right in like Bernie Sanders at a Tea Party rally.

But, as often happens when one is cast into the big, wide, alien world from the insulated confines of high school and hometown, like attracted like.  I made friends. Good friends.  Friends who helped me grow from the awkward 17 year old who had never been on a real date (seriously…) to a confident 19 year old who had become quite the dating expert.

Yeah, you heard me – dating expert.

But I left Ft. Worth and my friends in 1973.  Evidently I needed another major dose of culture shock.  And, I was sort of running away.  I ended up in Tucson, Arizona.  But that’s another post…

This trip back was the first time I’d been back to TCU since the 70’s.  I was worried.  I’d only spent two years there, they were two of the most formative years of my life.  Two of the best years of my life.  And in some ways, the worst.  Years of profound self-discovery.  Years of love and loss.  Life changing years.

Listening to music from the early 70’s – songs from artists like Carol King, Carly Simon, Seals & Croft, Harry Nilsson – strikes hard at times, deep in my spirit.  In a place locked up tight a long time ago.  Like skeleton keys, these songs rattle around in the lock. Sometimes they get a little too close to actually engaging the tumblers.  Then I turn the song off.  No need to stir up old ghosts.

So I was worried that visiting my old stomping grounds might actually break through the lock and release the AGMA Kracken.   But it was all good.  Walking in the footsteps of my teenage self was a bit surreal, but fun.  It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, but the sleeping dogs stayed asleep.  Whew.

I came back from Texas no more or less crazy than when I left.  My friends are happy. So much has changed there over the past 40+ years, but so much was still the same.  I guess I’m much changed over the past four decades as well.  But still, in many ways, so much the same.

Mary Hopkins sang back in 1968, “Oh my friend, we’re older but no wiser for in our hearts our dreams are still the same. Those were the days my friend…”

It’s one of the songs I can’t listen to.

On Hiatus Inc.

 

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I’ve been quiet lately.  It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say.  Oh my – I’ve barely gotten started…  Lucky you.

I’m on vacation!  Or coming back from vacation. At this very moment I’m flying at 32,000 feet (that’s 9754 meters to the rest of the world) going 476 mph (766 km/h).  Zoom!  

Not that being on vacation is such an unusual thing for me.  I’ve been “on hiatus” since 2006.  That’s what I told the young man beside me on the plane when he asked what I did for a living.  On hiatus.  We agreed it would be a killer name for a company if somebody hadn’t thought of it first.  Just my luck. 

To entice me to abandon my adopted adult hometown of 30 years and move to parts unthinkable, my husband dangled the “you can quit your job” carrot.  Of the several jobs I’d had out of college, the longest running and the one I was in at the time was as an IT minion for an insurance company.  ZZZZzzzzz…  

All but the last two years of my minion life were spent working part-time.  Great gig!  Professional job, but still time to be a soccer mom and drive a minivan.  Perfect!   I  pioneered working from home in the mid 80‘s.  I really didn’t mind being a minion part-time.   But after two years of full time miniondom after my youngest son had the nerve to go off to college, I was fed up.  Forty hours a week is just uncivilized…

I bit the carrot.

Sweet was the thought of a non-corporate life.  One glitch – it was hard to leave my co-workers and friends.  Really hard.  21 years of shared day to day experiences.  People who knew about my kid’s last track meet, my obsession with chocolate in any form, my last bad haircut.  People I hugged through cancer and divorce.  Laughed with at stupid boss stories at lunch.  Cried with at miscarriage and death.  Celebrated with at births, new love, re-marriages.  You know – the stuff that makes up every hour of every day.  Life.  

I cried when I moved.  My son always says, “Mom, you’re such a girl!”  

But as the Reverend Mother told Maria, “When God closes a door, she opens a window.”  Okay, maybe that’s not word for word…  Not working eight to five was a revelation!  Fancy gourmet cookware store work, famous chef assisting, monastic retreats, massage school graduation, hospice work, running, blogging, travel.  Lots of travel. Like now… 

‘Cuz I’m on hiatus.  Lucky me!