Posted by: patwogan | December 6, 2010

A Special Friend

When I was going to high school in Independence, I met a girl who became my best friend.  I think she started attending the same church I attended.  I don’t remember whether she came with me, or whether someone else in the church brought her the first time.  I just know that the friendship that began at that time lasted a lifetime for her.  And it lasted for me until her death.

She was two years older than I and had a childhood much unlike mine.  Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was in a mental hospital.  She had just moved to Independence from a small town about forty miles north.  I know very little about her before I met her, but she was a special person who had had a hard life.  I now think that she had possibly been abused by her father, although she never said anything about that.

Her father worked in a beer joint in Independence he and she lived in a small apartment above the tavern.  She was a senior in high school when we became acquainted.  The apartment she lived in was about four blocks from the high school and we started going there for lunch daily.  I remember that we always had canned Campbell soup for lunch.  Our favorite was vegetable, but sometimes we had chicken noodle or tomato . We often had Twinkies for dessert.   Funny how those lunches tasted so great, but it was probably the companionship that made it so.

I remember also the smell of that apartment.  It smelled of stale beer and stale smoke. We entered the apartment by a door beside the tavern.  We would go up a dark stairway and into a dark smelly hallway.  The first door on the left was the door to their apartment.  I really don’t know how many apartments were in that hallway, but there were probably at least two more.  Hers was the one right above the tavern.

She kept the apartment immaculately clean.  She had a knack for doing great decorating with very little money.  She was also very talented at sewing, knitting, and other needlework… but not such a great cook. The apartment had her touches on everything, down to the hand-painted towels in the bathroom.  I know her father didn’t appreciate what she did, as he made her life miserable with criticism.  His lack of cooperation in keeping the apartment neat  also added to her work.  He also did nothing to help her and I don’t remember ever seeing him without a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  I don’t know enough of his or her past to know why he was the way he was, but there must have been a time when he was not that way.

After she graduated from high school, she got a job with a local law firm as a private legal secretary.  Her shorthand and typing skills were excellent and she was also very intelligent.  She saved her money and as soon as possible rented a small garage apartment of her own.  She was eighteen and was totally on her own.  Sometimes when her father was drinking heavily, he would come to her apartment and ask her for money.  She was afraid of him.  She began spending more and more time at our house with Mom and me.  Finally, Mom convinced her to move in with us.  She lived with us for at least a year.  Mom was somewhat formidable and her dad didn’t really want to mess with her, so he left my friend alone.

She finally gained the courage to go back on her own, and she made a home for herself again.  I visited her frequently at her apartment and she and I did a lot of things together socially.  I was also working and we would go shopping together and sometimes by matching outfits.  I was never as good at crafts as she was, but I tried, and we had a lot of fun doing them.  She learned how to knit argyle socks and sweaters, and I couldn’t even do a chain stitch.

She married my late husband’s best friend, and the four of us did a lot of things together.  She and her husband moved away, my husband died, I remarried, and our friendship became a long-distance thing.

I called her because I had been thinking about her one day, and got her answering machine.  Her husband called me later in the day and said she had been taken to the hospital and diagnosed with brain cancer.  I sent her flowers, and was able to talk with her the day before she died.  I know the connection we had was the reason I called when I did, and I am thankful to God for allowing me to say good-bye to her.

Friends like her don’t happen too often in a person’s life.  When they do, we need to cherish them.

 

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