Archives for category: friendship

In 1904, the Sisters of Notre Dame founded the all-girl high school that I attended. The building which the class of 1968 attended was a mostly glass edifice built earlier in that decade. Several intersections of corridors allowed visibility of another corridor because of the floor to ceiling windows.

I was not one of the clique, the popular, or even the intelligentsia. I ate lunch most days with my cousin, who was only four months younger, but a member of the class of 1969. 

At the end of the school day, I usually rushed for bus #4 to take me home. Even in my senior year, there was no car for me.

I did have some merit as a school musician. I sang alto in the Senior Choir and often was the accompanist for school programs.

Most of the students who attended Notre Dame Academy were Caucasian. There were a handful of “black” students. I believe that was the correct terminology then. One of the minority students was Benita who was in my cousin’s class. We became friends partly through our mutual piano talents.

Benita was a better musician than I. She even started a gospel group with a few of the other black girls. They were good and joyful. Sometimes, Benita asked me to accompany the group so that she could concentrate on directing.

The first party I was ever invited to was at Benita’s. I was the only white person at the party. I had the best time. Everyone made me feel welcome.

At the end of my junior year, we entered a talent show as duo pianists. We played “More” from the movie Mondo Cane. We won either first or second or third prize, I don’t remember which.

My most indelible memory happened almost a year later. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Allegedly by a white man.

The next day, I came to school with a tear-stained face. I avoided Benita. My still developing young brain was fearful that Benita would see me as a generality (white) rather than a specific (friend). I had the feeling, “All whites had helped to pull the trigger on the murder weapon.”

Most students and all the sisters in the school knew of Benita’s and my relationship. In the early afternoon, Sister Jon, asked if I had talked to my friend.

I sobbed as I told Sister that I had been avoiding Benita. How could I look her in the eye, knowing someone of my race had done this horrible thing.

Sister was consoling and asked the questions I had forgotten myself, “Was that the basis of your friendship?’

“No, it was not.”

As if cued, through a window, I saw Benita coming down a corridor. We were the only three in the hallways.

Benita and I walked toward each other and fell into each other’s arms. No words, just comfort in each other’s arms.

Advertisements

I don’t recall exactly how we met. I’m pretty sure it was in the diner. I had started going there so that I could read while I waited for a meal. Eventually I became a Wednesday regular because of the meat loaf special of the day.

Each of us sat alone in our chosen booths reading. I just about always had a physical book. Ron preferred his iPad or newest tablet.

We were both the perfect stranger-readers at first. “What ya’ readin’?

Pertinent information was exchanged then each of us returned to the days read.

Before too long, there were more and longer discussions, but we always showed proper book reading etiquette by asking if conversation would continue or “do you want to read your book?”

Even when I really wanted to read, I could be cajoled to spend time with my friend.

Our paths crossed at another place in town, that shouldn’t be a big surprise. The county library. I was in charge of the library book sale and was scanning and classifying tens of thousands of books. With the weekend of the sale imminent, Ron asked if I needed help. Since the Friends , who sponsored the sale, were a mostly older female group, a person who could lift copy-paper-boxes filled with books from tall shelves was eagerly welcomed.

Ron never missed a sale once he started. And he paid his dues for the honor of working with us.

After I relinquished my chairperson of the sale duties, Ron continued to help the Friends for both the Spring and Fall sales.

Our “rendezvous” became exclusively at the diner. We’d still ask if it was okay to interrupt the reading. It always was.

We talked books. I’d let him know the latest Science Fiction titles I knew about. He sent me sites where I could find free e-books.

He sold his iPad mini to me and one of his tablets to my husband. I’m pretty sure my son, who worked the same place he did, bought a device from him. Ron liked to have the latest electronic gadget.

He is the only single person I know who purchased a 3-D printer. He was always coming into the diner with something new he’d made with the printer. The last one I saw was a toy-soldier-sized Hulk. Who was yellow.

“He’s not green.”

“Yeah, well…”

Then, last fall…

He shared with me that he had cancer. He had gone in to have something removed near his right temple, something he had been through before. This time the news was not good.

He had more invasive work done and the prognosis was worst than thought originally.

He asked me not to say anything to anybody. I honored his request – in the diner, at the Friends of the Library, and at my home.

Ron started getting his affairs in order. He asked me to write his obituary. He let the library know they would receive his 3-D printer. He didn’t want his wife, Sherry to have to worry about anything.

He started Chemo.

He let others know. At the diner and the library, people came to me to see if I knew. All were shocked.

Ron’s and my meetings at the diner were never maudlin or morose. Ron had a great attitude. Thirty years ago he had had a successful heart transplant and he looked at the next 30 years as a gift. Icing on the cake, if you will.

We looked out for each other at the diner. Especially if we didn’t run into each other for a few days.

In the last month, he contacted me for a lunch “date” that both of our spouses knew about and accepted. There was a new waitress at the diner that day. We all laughed when Sherry came in and I pointed out, “She’s the wife. I’m the girl friend.”

Two weeks ago, I was just getting ready to leave the diner when the owner told me to sit back down. “Ron’s on his way in.”

I sat.

He came to tell me things were going well. He was doing well on the Chemo, things were shrinking. He was very optimistic.

I didn’t see him last week. But I sure thought about him a lot.

Today I got two calls. One from the diner. One from the library where I work. I missed both calls. The diner owner called back. Sherry was trying to locate me.

Ron died this morning.

As soon as I heard, I drove to their house. Sherry and I hugged and hugged and hugged.

I said, “I thought he was doing better.”

“He was,” she said, “But then he got the flu and his body just couldn’t take it.”

Before I left, Sherry thanked me for writing Ron’s obituary. I told her, “I don’t want to say it was my pleasure.”

I’ve talked to her several more times today on the phone. At the end of the last call she said, “Thanks for being Ron’s friend.”

I told her, “Sherry, I’m your friend, too.”

She knew, but she appreciated that I was Ron’s friend.

All I could say, “Sherry, that was my pleasure.”

Ron