friends


Pam and Lynn after walking the labyrinth at Forest Lawn, May 2006

This weekend my lifelong friend, L., came over and it was so great to see her. (We met when we were 12. We are considerably older than 12 now.) We talked and piffled around with crafty things. Didn’t get a helluva lot done, but that was largely beside the point. She did a little stitchery and, after abortive attempts to do some knotwork, I wound up working on a WIP, a piece of bone I’ve been carving for literally years. I call her Schnausicaa. I work on her for a while, put her down again (usually for a long while), then pick her up when she calls to me. I do think we’re getting close to the end, but she tells me she isn’t finished yet, so I’ll have to go with her instincts.

Mostly L. and I talked, watched stupid TV shows and made sarcastic remarks about them, ordered in Mediterranean (kebabs and falafel) for dinner, and just were…friends. It was the first time I had hugged another human being since February 2020 (the last time L. came over for a craft day), just weeks before the shutdown. I (we) may have cried a little. But mostly we had fun, the kind of comfortable fun old friends have, no need for heavy duty entertainment, unafraid of silences, unafraid of expressing whatever needs expressing.

(We also lived together for almost five years in our late 20s so neither of us has any illusions about our respective housekeeping abilities. L. is the only person I would dare allow in this house in the pandemic-careless state it currently is in.)

Pam and Lynn at their apartment in the olden days

I’ve had other friends come over and we’ve sat outside separated by 10, 15, 20 feet on the lawn to talk, but L. and her husband ,C. (more like my family than my family), are both immunocompromised so they’ve had to be especially cautious. C.’s mom died of COVID in December. I wasn’t especially close to her, but she was someone I knew and liked, and the mother of one of my closest friends so it really hit home. It put a human face—if I needed one—on all those stats and numbers. Because, really, each of those numbers was a human being, precious to someone.

But now we’ve all had our vaccines, all my friends, and if we aren’t living wild and carefree, we are at least able to venture out now and again. I am a creative introvert so being on my own is not a burden for me, not like it is for some. Except, of course, when it lasts a year and a half.

I may have hermit-like ways, but I’m not truly a hermit. And old friends are a blessing one really can’t have too much of.

Schnausicaa (WIP) with snake goddess

What with being sick on and off for about three weeks, then trying to make up for a year and a half of household neglect in two weeks (impossible), I haven’t done any creative work in over a month and it was really weighing on my psyche today. So I forced myself to open my Rev. Kirk file and DO something.

I only got about 500 words, but at least I’m crawling forward again. I think I can feel the road beneath my feet once more and know that it really, truly is still there.

Tomorrow my oldest friend is coming over and we will be doing crafts all day. I haven’t seen her since February 2020. I cannot tell you how happy it will make me to see her.

Random quote of the day:

 

The Waterwheel

Stay together, friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,
weeping.

That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.

—Rumi (tr. Coleman Barks)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

My friend with CJD called me this morning. About ten minutes before she did I’d been praying that she’d find peace soon. It’s almost as if her radar picked that prayer up. I sometimes think that kind of thing can move through the aethyr and be sensed up by someone who’s ailing.

Apparently, they’re going to move her to California tomorrow, if what she says can be trusted. (I’m not sure it can be, but who knows?) She was talking about a lot of stuff I didn’t understand and mourning because she can’t take her cat to the “nice place” they’ve found for her near her brother. She’s worried about her cat, although a friend in Oregon, “one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet” has agreed to take care of him. “But he’s my baby boy!” she cried. “And I’ll miss him!” She told me how she’d been sobbing because she thought she’d already lost him, but then realized he was sleeping in the bedroom. She loved him so much that when she drew up her will some years back she left money to make sure he was taken care of. I imagine all that will be swept away, everything she owns, because those “nice places” cost a lot of money and Medicaid doesn’t kick in until you’re completely impoverished. (But I’m not bitter.)

“Everyone is giving me such shit because I’m dying. I guess,” she said. She talked wistfully about how, when she’s in California, maybe I and her other California friends can come visit. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the “nice place” would probably not allow many visitors due to COVID restrictions. The place they’re moving her to is just shy of 200 miles from here. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my bad legs make it impossible for me to drive that far anymore. In theory, I could suborn some of her other friends to make the trip with me—and I would do that, hard as it would be to see her, were it not for COVID. I have to protect myself, too.

I so much did not want to answer that call. But I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t. Listening and praying are literally the only things I can do for her right now.

I try to distract myself with piffle and routine. Sometimes that even works, but not when confronted with the stark reality of what’s going on. So this blog may be a little schizoid for a while. I’ll try not to belabor it with posts like these—but sometimes I just need to talk/write. I’ll label them CJD so you can skip over them and I think I’ll close them to comments. Not because I don’t appreciate your expressions of fellow-feeling and sympathy—I sincerely do—but because this is more about me just needing to get things out. I don’t want to exhaust everyone.

 

 

I got some devastating news about a friend yesterday. We had thought she’d gone into early onset dementia, which was tragic enough, but the final diagnosis was worse. She has Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease, also called subacute spongiform encephalopathy, also known in more tabloid terms as Mad Cow Disease.

It’s extremely rare (one per 1 million worldwide according to the Mayo Clinic), progresses rapidly, is incurable, and leads to death. Usually within a year of the onset of acute symptoms. All that can be done for her now is palliative care. They’re moving her to “a nice place” close to her brother.

How did she get this disease? No one will ever know. There was talk in the family about a trip she took to Egypt a few years back where she got really sick while there, but—also according to the Mayo Clinic—classic CJD hasn’t been linked to eating contaminated meat so who the hell knows? (It does occur, but it’s a variant of classic CJD and even rarer.) It can also develop spontaneously, usually in older people, due to abnormal changes in a kind of protein called prions.

There’s the clinical side of all that. Forgive me, but that’s how I deal with things. First the shock and grief, then I research, then I write, then a cycle back to grief. Sometimes while I’m writing. It’s my coping mechanism. But this isn’t about me, it’s about my friend.

She was such a bright star, full of life and abundant humor—sometimes sweet, sometimes pure delight and clever, sometimes mordant—but she always left us laughing. She had such a quick wit, a supple mind, strongly held opinions, abiding curiosity. She adored silent film and became something of a sourcebook for others who wanted information. She loved research and by determination and hardcore digging turned herself into an expert on the murder of Virginia Rappe by silent film star Fatty Arbuckle. It was her mission to redeem the reputation of poor Virginia who the lawyers (to save Arbuckle) and the studios (to limit liability) and the salacious press (to sell newspapers) dragged thoroughly through the mud. (It worked. Arbuckle was acquitted, though he never worked in Hollywood again, the press sold a lot of papers, and poor Virginia was labeled an irredeemable tramp not worth giving a damn about.) My friend had all the material ready and planned to write a book exposing this miscarriage of justice. All she managed were a few articles before life caught up with her.

If this sounds like a eulogy, it is. My friend is still alive, but the crystal palace of who she is—was—has already been shattered. Already she’s forgotten the names of friends. When I talked to her about a month ago, she asked me to send her a card through the old school mail with all my contact information (which she already had) so she’d have something she could hold in her hand and keep safe. I did. That may be why she and her caregiver thought to call me yesterday. They were both on the phone so the caregiver could fill in the many gaps for my friend. “She’s very concerned,” the caregiver told me, “that her friends will feel abandoned.” “No, darling,” I told my friend. “We don’t think that. We understand.”

My friend said, “Please tell the long-haired girl. Do you know who I mean?” I said the Long-Haired Girl’s name and she said gratefully, “Yes! Yes! Oh, how is she doing? I’m so worried about her. That disease.” The Long-Haired Girl—whose name she remembered a month ago—has been fighting cancer. I was glad to tell my friend (not for the first time) that it was in remission and to hear the overwhelming relief in her voice.

So that’s where we are: her trailing bits of shattered crystal behind herself as she moves rapidly to her final destination. And no one can pick up the pieces.

So much death this year. Each life precious. Every human being a shining world lost forever—except in the fragile crystal palace of those who still remember them.

Random quote of the day:

“Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.”

—Richard Bach, Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“A man loves his friend the better if he does not know why he loves him.”

—Ernest Dimnet, What We Live By

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“It’s all very well to tell us to forgive our enemies: our enemies can never hurt us very much. But oh, what about forgiving our friends?”

—Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“Histories are more full of Examples of the Fidelity of dogs than of Friends.”

—Alexander Pope, letter to Henry Cromwell, 19 October 1709

dogs4wp

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“Friends, genuine friends, have much more to do with whether we have a warm heart, not money or power.”

—Dalai Lama, Twitter, June 10, 2011

 friends4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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