Two days ago, my dear friend Julie lost her dad. He hadn’t been well for a long time. When I saw pictures posted of him on FB, I almost didn’t recognize him. He lives in my memory behind the wheel of his convertible caddy, driving us around Lake Arrowhead. We were in junior high, Julie was the prettiest girl I knew, her parents were glamourous and cool. They drove great cars and they lived in this amazing house with a pool and a lanai. I think you may have to be from California to know what a lanai is… or Hawaii.
We used to have slumber parties at Julie’s house. We’d make prank phone calls and do this weird thing where we’d levitate someone. I’m still not sure how that worked, but we were convinced it did. In the morning, someone’s bra would be in the freezer and Julie’s parents would have made a big breakfast.
Julie and I lost touch after high school, but in recent years have become close again. She lost her mom a while back, and now her dad. It seems impossible that my sweet friend is — in her own words — an orphan. We joked a bit about it the other night. I told her we could adopt her, but she said she was going to look into other offers and circle back. I think she’s not up for the practical footwear a NY winter demands. Julie is all about the shoes. And the crazy sarcastic humor. I think that might, in part, be why I love her so much.
Life has a strange way of bringing you home again. I can still feel the wind in my hair, the warm summer nights. I am sitting in the lanai with Julie prank calling boys. I like to think I don’t have regrets, but there is so much I would choose to do differently. We were reckless kids. Growing up in the seventies we were strangely unsupervised, left to make our own way, mistakes and all. Adults rarely intervened. It was a different time.
But the friendships we made back then have proven to be strong. The lost years almost don’t matter. Maybe we are closer now because of them. When you get to a point where you are watching your parents die, or caring for them in their final years, there’s a piece of your soul that cries out for the younger you. The teenage you. The reckless, unsupervised you. I think that is why so many of my junior high and high school friends, my growing up friends, have come full circle, back to the relationships that remind us of who we were, the relationships that anchor us to our past.
Julie wants to host a cancer-can-suck-it party for me in California. “July can’t come soon enough,” she texted. I wonder if I will be able to go home this summer, to sit by the pool and look up at the mountains I love and count my blessings. I wonder if I will be in California or here, in NY, getting chemo. We don’t always have the answers we want, but hope is a powerful thing.
My heart is broken for my friend. I can’t imagine the permanence of her grief. There is so much about this life that is hard, so much we simply wish we could wish away. But there is good too. Summer nights and warm winds, slumber parties and friendships that stand the test of time. And the promise of tomorrow.