Last night, as I lay in bed, vainly fighting to defend my honor hoping to eke out a victory in an ever declining success rate in my Words With Friends career, my Kindle Fire (on which I was playing) was not responding to the touch of my fingers attempting to move letters into (hopefully) high scoring spots on the board. Upon inspection I understood the reason to be that the screen was wet, having become so from the tears that I hadn’t quite noticed were dropping from my eyes onto the screen. It was a soft, almost tender, and, clearly, nearly imperceptible weeping which snuck up on me and continued for several moments.
Initially I was unsure as to what had motivated the tears; truthfully, I can think of several potential culprits. I soon realized that I was reacting, almost without even knowing, to the day that had just gone by. Yesterday, I accompanied my mother and brother to the funeral of my mother’s college roommate, Carolyn, who had been a part of my family’s life forever and ill for a mere two weeks. A friendship which began nearly sixty years ago (my mother is going to kill me for that!) and never waned, Carolyn and her family were, well, family. Yesterday, for the first time in too long, we all had an opportunity to be together, although I sincerely wish it had been under different circumstances.
Between my mother and Carolyn, they were mothers to seven children, all of whom I had relationships of some sort or another. I went to camp with her two girls, Alison and Beth for many, many summers. Her older son Jon and I are the same age and spent a lot of time the summer after college hanging out and wondering about the future of our newly graduated selves. Andy, to my great pleasure as the youngest in my family, was born a few years after me which provided the only opportunity for me to ever be the “older” kid. We went on ski trips together as families in the seventies, when my mother still skied and both of our fathers were about the ages we are now. Both sets of children have lost our fathers since then – mine to lung cancer and their’s to a tragic and devastating automobile accident. Carolyn and my mother, who met as kids, stood up for each other at their weddings, celebrated each of their children’s births, successes and challenges, who comforted and supported one another as each became a widow too young, were an institution. And now Carolyn is gone. It is almost impossible to believe.
When I saw her children yesterday, each one, despite the circumstances, asked me how I was doing. They have all been following the story of Jessie, both on these pages and through our mothers. They made sure to express their love to me for what is happening in my home when all they should be worrying about is themselves. Our hugs were a little tighter and our mutual desire to comfort one another was a little more profound. And it was just enough to make me cry.
In part I cried for my mother who, I know, is broken-hearted and unsure how to even imagine Carolyn not being in her life. And, while I, too, find it hard to believe, my tears were partially of distress, but perhaps even more about the comfort in being with these old and dear friends. Over the past nearly fifty years (see, mom, equal opportunity age-outing, here) this second generation has been privy to one another’s celebrations, accomplishments, successes, failures, sicknesses, deaths and yet, despite unintended lapses of connectedness we share a bond that is unbreakable.
When each of them thanked me for coming I responded in my trademark “what you see it what you get” and told them to shut up – it would never occur to me to not be there. What they might not know is that I consider them having been there for me yesterday, too.