Friday, June 13, 2008

Best Friends

This is a post I made on January 24, 2008 in my other blog. I've decided the other blog ought to be only for business-related posts, so this very personal note is going to reside here.

I first met Patti in the 60s, when we were both in high school. Her father had just retired from the military and moved the family to our small town to settle down. I was a sophomore and Patti was a freshman.

We had a nodding acquaintance in those days. None of our classes were together and we each had our own little group that we hung around with. Of course, in a small school everybody knows everybody. We really didn’t have much in common. She was outgoing and ebullient, always happily conspicuous with her flaming red hair. I, on the other hand, was shy and introverted. I’d usually be found sitting alone with my glasses slipping down my nose which was buried in a book.

Towards the end of high school, we were both in Thespians. Patti was one of the players (she did a hilarious portrayal of a feisty old lady in some production about which I have long sense forgotten any other details), and I helped paint the scenery and served as a prompter, hiding behind the curtain whispering forgotten lines to the actors. We got to know each other a little more through that. We became friends, although not “best friends”.

High school ended. We all graduated and went our separate ways.

About ten years down the road, I found myself back in our little hometown with my own little daughter … who wanted to join the Brownies. A note had gone out to all the mothers saying that they needed leaders for the Brownie Troop.

Well, I volunteered. At the first meeting, I discovered that the co-leader was none other than Patti! We were both delighted to see each other. And now we had a lot more in common. Her daughter was within three days of the same age as my daughter. We were both very enthusiastic Brownie leaders. Both liked the same movies. Both read the same books. We both watched the same soap opera.

At that time, Patti was going through a divorce and really needed a friend to talk to. My husband was doing construction work, mostly out of town, and I also needed somebody to talk to. Talk we did! We spent hours on the phone (to the annoyance of our daughters, who were also best friends and wanted to talk). I would be watching “Days of Our Lives”, when some dramatic plot twist happened and I’d immediately reach for the phone. The phone would ring before my hand even touched it. I’d know, of course, that it was Patti.

Those were good times. Patti could draw me out of my serious side like nobody else ever could. She could have made an insurance seminar fun! I have fond memories of sitting in Pizza Hut with our girls (teenagers by then) sitting primly a few tables away (pretending they didn’t know us) giving us dirty looks for laughing and giggling in what they considered to be very “unmatronly” behavior. But who could ever be up-tight around Patti?

Patti would call and say, “I’m so bored I’m climbing the walls. Let’s go do something.”

I’d say, “I really can’t right now … I have to (fill in the blank: do laundry, clean my fridge, … whatever).”

She’d say, “Oh, forget about that! You don’t have to do it NOW.”

And I’d say, “Okay. You talked me into it.” And off we’d go.

We’d dump her three kids and my one off with one grandma or another (or take them with us … that was fun, too) and head out for a bite of pizza. Or maybe to the fish place, where the lady always gave us extra because she said we were the only ones who ever ordered the breaded oysters.

Then the main entertainment of the evening would be to spy on her boyfriend of the time, who was a security guard. Patti knew the rounds that he made, so we’d be parked in a dark parking lot waiting for him to pass by and then would zip out and honk at him. I bet he got to where his hair would stand on end every time he saw a green Gremlin! (It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him … she just wanted to see him.)

In those days, CB radios were quite the fad. We’d talk to various people on her CB, but usually to her cousins, Ralph and Johnny, who were just recently out of high school. One evening, as a prank, Patti got the boys on the radio using a disguised voice. In a seductive (and fairly credible) southern drawl, she teased them and had them looking for “a black Camero”. “We’re in the City Market parking lot. Come on over and say Hello.” We watched from across the street, in gales of laughter, as they slowly trolled the parking lot, looking for that Camero. She had those boys chasing all over town before they finally recognized her voice.

A few days later, Ralph and Johnny got their revenge (sort of). We were stopped at the traffic light on Main Street, when they pulled up beside us … and mooned us! Unfortunately, what they didn’t notice was that we had Patti’s mother — their Aunt Sophie — in the back seat. Sophie was scandalized and lost no time in telling their mother, all their other cousins, everybody at the American Legion, and pretty much everybody in town. I doubt if they’ve lived it down to this day.

For years, Patti and I were always there for each other. We loaned each other money, we provided each other a shoulder to cry on, we celebrated life’s victories together and plotted revenge for life’s disappointments. If somebody needed a ride to the emergency room, either of us would drop what we were doing at a moment’s notice. If one of us ran out of gas, we knew who to call. If we had a secret, we knew who to confide in. Divorce, business loss, deaths in the family, surgeries, legal problems, children growing from babies to teens — all these things were survived with the support we gave each other.

But, time marches on. Patti met her second husband, Bob. She knew right away that this was “it”. And I knew her well enough to know she was right. I was her matron of honor. I could see how happy she was, and it was clear that Bob was good for her. So I was happy ….. except … They decided to move to the state where his work was — just about as far from here as is possible to go and still be on the same continent.

We stayed in touch, letters and phone calls when we could afford it. (Calls were a lot more expensive than they are now.) But, little by little, our lives moved in different directions. Usually she’d visit her daughter, who still lives here, every year or two. We’d have lunch and talk about old times. A couple of years ago, we had a portrait made with the two of us (best friends), and our two daughters (still best friends), and their two daughters who are, coincidentally, both the same age and also best friends. There’s a bond of friendship that can never be broken. But I’ve missed the closeness we had when living in the same town.

Last night, in response to the reading I’ve done lately saying how advantageous all this “social networking” can be to business, I decided to explore FaceBook. I signed up and looked around wondering if there would be anybody on there that I knew. No, not a soul. Then I happened to think, “Patti would like something like this. I wonder if she’s on it?”

Sure enough, there she was! By that time, it was pretty late. So I decided that I would call it a day and the next morning I would figure out how to send a message on that system and drop her a line. “Won’t she be surprised!” I thought.

I went to bed, but for some reason, just couldn’t get to sleep. Since I’d been thinking of Patti when I went to bed, memories of all our good old times were running through my mind all night. I anticipated how much fun it would be to have that old communication line open once more.

This morning, I got up and was making my morning tea when someone knocked on my door. I opened the door to find Patti’s daughter, Michelle, standing there with tears running down her face. “Mom died in her sleep last night.” she told me.

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