Yesterday: I jogged passed a guy who’d been just outside the room during my labor and delivery of my daughter. He and his partner were among our best friends at the time, and they’d come to the hospital as soon as they’d heard things had begun, nervously listening to every scream and moan (which were blessedly short in duration – just two hours). Now, we haven’t spoken in months (more than a year?) and he rode his bike right by me with a little cursory nod that I think came from an instinctual sense that he knew me, though in the rush of the bike tires and because of the stocking cap I wore, he couldn’t place me quickly enough. Whoosh – he was gone.
Last weekend: I spent the night at my ex-mother-in-law’s house, in a bed I’ve slept in with each of my children and, of course, with my ex-husband. I remember when she first moved into the house following a long divorce. It’s a cottage, perfectly suited to one person, and though she had mixed feelings, we were happy for her. When we visited there with a baby and a toddler, I — so thankful to have people to look after my kids — escaped and spent an entire day in that bed reading The DaVinci Code. Now, who knows if or when I’ll sleep there again. That she welcomed me and that I wanted to be there was a happy enough occasion in itself.
The night before that: I shared a room with a dear friend, a woman I met the summer before last at yoga camp. We’d gravitated toward each other within the first few days of the training — two of the few who were over 40 in our dorm room of 22 women. Funny, gregarious, always kind, my friend is Lucille Ball, and I’m, um, well I’m the straight sidekick, for sure. It took maybe a week of knowing her that I told her I loved her. I was that sure that she was and would remain a dear friend – a person who would be in my life for years to come.
We always think this when we love someone. When they’re suited to us. And yet with age we wizen a bit. The forevers of junior high give way to a very long time and then to a sense of knowing someone as long as you can, as long as it serves you both, as long as luck and life hold out.
Short notice. Almost no notice. Gone.
Two days ago: An email came from another friend, a woman I shared a writing group with for about seven years. She was writing from her new home abroad to tell some of us that a friend of hers who I’d never met but about whom I’d read pages and pages had just died. Pneumonia. Short notice. Almost no notice. Gone.
We know this. It’s always possible. Always around the corner. And yet how nearly impossible it is to know it. Among those who do intimately understand this fleetingness, you can sense it in their energy, like those in Harry Potter who can see the thestrels.
Yesterday: On that same run, I passed a glaringly red-orange rose, almost trashy in its color. Way too much Joan Rivers, not nearly enough Katherine Hepburn. But it was an amazing flower to be here at all after a few nights when temperatures had been in the upper 30s. All of its siblings had wilted. I ran by it, then stopped and mindfully walked back. Careful not to step on the pansies and other plants, still green, underneath the climbing, thorny rose, I leaned in to smell it. It smelled as it should, not like a grocery store flower, and I inhaled with gratitude.