I’ve never believed in the concept of a single best friend.
Hearing “She’s my best friend” always made me wonder how other friends would feel if they knew they were runners-up in the good friends contest.
No, I never believed in “best” when it comes to friends, just “different.” And I’m lucky enough to have many wonderful friends, all different from the others. I not only appreciate those differences, I celebrate them.
But there’s always the one friend you always feel most comfortable with. The one who loves you unconditionally. She doesn’t stop loving you if you do or say something stupid. She doesn’t think holding a different opinion is a friendship deal-breaker.
She’s the friend who knows you –all the good and a whole bunch of the bad–and still loves you. She’s the one with whom you can share the silly little minutiae of every-day life. She knows how you like your coffee and how you like your men. And you have history together. Years of experiences, each one a stone in a beautiful, colorful mosaic.
At this age, it’s impossible to build 30 years of history with someone. The roots just can’t go that deep. That is not to say that I don’t feel close to newer friends. It’s just different.
In the weeks since Marilyn’s death, I’ve become all too familiar with the big hole she left in my life. At least half a dozen times a day I’ll think, “I need to call Marilyn and tell her….” or “I’ll pick one up for Marilyn, too,” or any number of other things that all involve talking to her or seeing her.
It’s hard to accept that I can’t.
The loss is so overwhelming that I’ve had to pull my car over and cry, more than once.
I don’t think that’s going to stop any time soon.
I know she’s in a better place. I believe it with all my heart.
But I miss her so much.
When I think about our friendship, I can see that part of our comfort with one another was that we shared a cultural heritage, both of us Italian-American from the northeast. Other than that? We had nothing at all in common, not really. She was a mom, a Nana and half a generation older than me. I realized that I had no idea if she was Republican or Democrat. Think of that! A friend I’ve known for 30 years and it never came up. I think she was more conservative than I, but frankly, politics was completely irrelevant to our relationship. We never talked about it. We didn’t need to–there was so much else to talk about: our families, our other relationships, our work, our outings, our lives. What we found at Safeway. How we prepared salmon. The cost of gas. The latest deal at TJMaxx. Whether we should get her favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte. Ok, now, writing that made me cry–those pumpkin lattes I’d bring her when she was hospitalized at Stanford. Was it last year or two years ago? All those years just blur together now, part of our history.
It’s a funny thing about love, any kind of love including the love between friends. Love makes differences disappear.
I’ve written before about how my biggest challenge in this lifetime was to learn forgiveness. The Divine handed me a family situation that was not for the faint of heart. It would have destroyed many people.
But, see, that’s what made my friendship with Marilyn so important to me. She was with me and for me through thick and thin– the sister I always wanted and never had. My parents both gone and my siblings emotionally gone, I had no family to be on my side.
Marilyn was always on my side.
I thought we had more time. Even if it were just a year, I wanted it. But I know it wouldn’t have been any easier in a year than it is now.
Just about every day I peer down into the void, hoping she’ll pop up and tell me it was all a bad dream. But it’s not a dream. She’s gone and there’s a big empty space I can never fill.
And maybe that’s ok. That space in my life was unique to her. No one else fits there.
Maybe that’s just part of being older. Your loved ones transition to the next life and you look at that empty space they once occupied and think of how beautiful it was to have them and that you’ll be together again one day.
Maybe we just have to be satisfied with that.
Mi manchi, la mia bellissima amica. I miss you, my beautiful friend.