Sunday, August 2, 2009

In Gratitude for Friendship

"The friendship that can cease has never been real." - Saint Jerome

Okay, as promised, part two of my eight day sojourn south. I left my friends and their new black lab puppy and headed around the beltway to Springfield, where I met up with more friends from childhood. Can you say Chicago/Beach Boys concert? We were there, whatever summer that was—1974, I think it was, maybe 1975. Anyway, the three of us went out to dinner at their favorite restaurant, a wonderfully trendy place where I had the tastiest filet mignon and real mashed potatoes made from red-skinned potatoes.

I’m the kind of girl who would rather have a second helping of mashed potatoes than dessert, so I was in hog heaven. Those potatoes were my dessert! Afterward, we went back to their house, where they invited me to try out their new wireless internet thingy---it wasn’t a computer, but you could check your email and surf the internet on it--so check my email I did, for the first time in four days.

Amazing how quickly it piles up—and how quickly you can forget all about it—which is what I did at the conference. Totally. Didn’t give the internet a second thought. I was on vacation. The lobby of my floor, however, was a mysterious pocket of free wireless in a hotel that charged $12.95 a day for internet use, and $3.95 for 15 minutes of use down in the lobby, ka-ching ka-ching, so every time I stepped off the elevator, there were people left and right hunched over as many laptops as in a computer showroom. Over the course of four days, I watched our floor’s secret grow and grow. Nearly 2000 writers and free internet? do the math.

My friend’s husband went to bed and she and I sat up late into the night, talking books and trips. She’s a librarian and had attended the RWA booksellers and librarians luncheon the day before the conference, so we’d missed each other at the hotel. The national conference is known for passing out free books—each publisher hosts an autographing of their authors and provides the books for it—but the booksellers luncheon is a true bonanza. My friend came home with four shopping bags full of books.

Fortunately, she can donate the booty where she works, so even more readers will be able to enjoy them. Me, I managed to keep my take down to only a dozen books I don’t have time to read, knowing I’d just have to carry them back on the subway. But if you plan to attend a RWA conference, I’d suggest bringing a second carry-on size suitcase (empty) just to take home the free books. Every time we sat down to a meal there were free books on our seats. We also got free books in our free extra-sturdy tote bags provided by Harlequin, celebrating its 60th year in business.

Anyway, my friend and I talked about going to the RWA conference in Nashville together next year (still up in the air), and made tentative plans to take a trip to Ireland together in about eighteen months or so. Just enough time to save up for it and go. She’s on her way to London in the fall, but I’ve already been to Florida and DC this year, so it’s time to step back and save my pennies for a while.

The next morning we had breakfast, I checked my email again, and headed off toward the Chesapeake Bay for my next stop, the home of another childhood friend, the sister of my friend in Rockville (their brother was my 6th grade boyfriend.). She lives in a delightful beach community. Before I was even out of the car, the neighbor across the street was over offering to help if I needed anything. I just handed the phone out to him so he could talk to my friend directly, whom I had called to let her know I’d arrived.

My friend recently lost her husband, so I’m glad she lives in a community where they look out for each other. I spent the afternoon reading and resting and catching up on my laundry, an unexpected bonus, since I was now out of my conference clothes and into my casual wear. That night we went out to dinner at a steak and seafood restaurant on a pier at a marina. We sat on a picnic bench outside, ate our broiled scallops and fried oysters in the balmy breeze, and watched the lights come on in the boats on the water and the array of stately homes that lined the waterfront.

We also had a beer, my second of the year. For that story, read my blog post from the Florida cruise. After I ordered mine she looked at me knowingly and asked, “When’s the last time you had a beer?” I smiled proudly… “January.”

I’m such a wild woman, I know. We sat there, two friends of 40 years, sipped our beers, and talked about life and love and loss, until it was time to go. Then we went home and made peach tea with fresh mint and stayed up late talking some more, while she showed me the bead jewelry she makes and sells at craft fairs. She asked me to pick something out and I went to bed with six bracelets and a necklace, undecided. The next day I chose one bracelet and bought two more.

The following day, another friend from our childhood arrived. (I told you there were three of them, remember?) I’d called her the day before and asked if we could get together for lunch. Said I’d be happy to meet her half way or even drive all the way down to the county where we grew up and she still lives. But no, she wanted to come up and see everybody, so she all but dropped everything and came right up—on crutches, no less. She fell off a ladder cleaning windows and has been on crutches for two months.

We spent the afternoon catching up—I hadn’t seen her in three years, since my high school reunion—until my hostess got home from work. Then the Rockville contingent arrived (including the new puppy and its sleep-deprived family) and we all went back to the same steak and seafood restaurant on the water for dinner. Theirs was not the only dog present on the pier as we ate and took pictures and teased and reminisced. The Rockville group left right after dinner, no doubt to go home and catch some Zzzz’s. A sound plan, as long as the puppy didn’t sleep all the way home :).

Back to my friend’s house, where the three remaining women stayed up too late again, once again drinking tea and talking about love and loss—and faith. How faith gets you through. Both of my friends are overnight widows. One minute they had husbands and the next---they did not. One killed by a drunk driver, another lost to a heart attack. Then there’s me, divorced after 16 years of marriage. As one of them asked, “Who would have thought that three out of four of us would end up single in our fifties?”

You never know. And that is why friendships like ours are so important. So that you have someone in your life who will tack a couple of days onto a trip and come and have a beer with you at a picnic table on a pier. Or one who will drop everything and borrow a car (hers was in the shop) and drive a couple of hours (while on crutches!) to see you.

Here’s to 40 years of friendship, ladies, through good times and bad. I love you.


Doralynn said...

You are blessed. What a wonderful trip and wonderful friendships. In spite of all of life's tragedies, life is a beautiful thing. Friendship is one of those things that make it beautiful.

Denise said...

Liana, what a wonderful blog post. Long-time friendships are truly one of life's blessings.

Mary Ricksen said...

That's wonderful. I lost my best friend to cancer, so now I appreciate the friends I have all the more.

People you know and love for that long are in you soul.

jodi said...

Friends are the best thing about life. :) What a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Mind Power

Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Mind Power