Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving, and I awoke early this morning and found myself thinking of all the things I am thankful for in my life. Not that I do this only once a year; I am often overcome by the ways in which I have been blessed. But it seemed particularly apt today. We are at the beach for Thanksgiving this year, a first for us because my mother-in-law, whose turn it was to host, had a yen to go to the beach. Who were we to say no??

Yesterday, as I sat in the living room of the beach house, overlooking the ocean and watching Rapunzel and The Nerd, I was overcome by a moment of awe, that I had somehow created these two fascinating people. They weren't doing anything particularly remarkable - Rapunzel was working on a jigsaw puzzle and The Nerd was out on the porch debating with her uncle whether that object in the distance through the telescope was really a pier or not. An ordinary moment. But here were these girls, with their own minds and personalities and opinions... here because Chris and I made a decision 17 years ago and 14 years ago... I cannot take responsibility for all that they are - they are one part me, one part Chris, and one part miracle, all combined to make two unique human beings. Even when they challenge me, there is nothing about their essential natures I would change. So I am so thankful to have these two young women (I can't really call them children any more...) in my life.
I am also thankful for Chris. I never thought anyone would want to marry me or spend their life with me - I am a prickly person, and not always the easiest to live with. So it astonishes me on a regular basis that he saw beyond that and is willing to put up with that and share a life with me. We just celebrated out 20th anniversary, so I guess he's going to stick around!

There is so much more - my family and friends, my September Moms, our church, my job and coworkers, our fur babies - all things I am thankful for. But I will leave you, to go help my mother and mother-in-law prepare dinner, and you to go prepare your own and be thankful for your own blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Friday, November 16, 2012

In every way but blood

November 5 was the third anniversary of the death of my dear friend Dedi from metastatic breast cancer. The next day was election day, the culmination of weeks, months of our country trying to insist we all come in just two varieties: red and blue. The juxtaposition had me thinking back over our unlikely friendship.

Dedi and I at my wedding.
Boy, were we younger then...
Dedi and I met 25 years ago, when we were both 25 years old. On the surface, we had nothing in common. I am an introvert and a nerd, born and raised outside Boston, as a Catholic. I am (and was) a very liberal Democrat. When we met, I was pursing a PhD (which I later punted when I finished my masters). By contrast, Dedi was a flaming extrovert who never met a stranger (seriously, she could have carried on an animated conversation with a brick wall), born and raised in small-town North Carolina, as a Presbyterian. She was a moderate Republican. She never went to college.

Not only were we different in personality, temperament, upbringing, and education, we were also at totally different points in our lives when we met. I was a single, not-even-dating graduate student, who figured I would never get married or have kids. She managed my apartment complex, had married at 19, and had a 4 year old.

Not a likely pairing for a friendship, right? And yet. However unlikely it was, we hit it off from the moment we met. Whatever the differences between us, whatever way you want to carve the world into two kinds of people, that I fell on one side and she on the other, we just got each other.We could talk for hours, about everything and nothing. She was in awe of my education, I was in awe of her social poise. It was some years later that I confessed to her I had never understood why she, so confident, so outgoing, so personable, would want to be friends with awkward me. Which is when she confessed she'd often wondered why someone as educated as I was would want to be friends with her... We laughed about that many times in the years that followed.

Many times over the years, our other friends scratched their heads over our friendship. Interestingly, both sets mostly focused on the disparity in our education. I know a lot of PhDs who have no sense, no compassion, no people skills. I wouldn't have traded Dedi and her high school education for a truckload of them. I didn't give a fig for her education: she was funny, smart, curious, compassionate, and fiercely loyal. No one ever had a truer friend, or one with a bigger heart, or a greater knack for saying exactly the right thing at the right time, even if it didn't seem like the obvious right thing. (I once shared an epiphany about my family with her, something I felt I would have to defend and explain, and her immediate response was "Well, duh!" It was perfect... One thing we did share was a snarky and sarcastic sense of humor...) Sometimes she leaned on me, and sometimes I leaned on her, and neither of us kept score.

I learned an enormous amount from her about parenting, about interacting with the world, about self confidence, about life in general. Our friendship transformed me. I still reach for the phone when I have a thorny how-should-I-deal-with-this problem, only now, I can no longer ask her, I can only think "What would Dedi do?"

I am so grateful for the 22 years of our friendship. We shared countless meals, trips to the beach, movies, everything. She was my matron of honor when I got married, my unofficial doula at the births of both Rapunzel and The Nerd, and The Nerd's godmother. And it was not enough: I wanted to lunch with her in our retirement, admire her grandbabies and brag on mine. I would love to have chewed on the issues that vex me and vex our world with her. But  that was not to be, and I still mourn the loss of that.

She herself summed up our relationship when Rapunzel was born. One of the labor and delivery nurses asked her if we were sisters. Her response? "In every way but blood." Rest in peace my sister. I miss you still.