Monday, October 20, 2008

Fifteen long years

It's been 15 years. Has it really been that long? Time has marched on, and now here I stand, 15 years later and still no nearer to comprehension.

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Hey. Remember when our friends lived in the top story of that decrepit old rooming house in Scary Central? Infested with mice and bugs, with the slanted roof and the tiny windows, both guys over 6 feet tall, constantly knocking their heads against the roof if they didn't remember to duck in time. The shared bathroom that never had any paper. And the fire escape doors nailed shut, with the uneven stairs that scared any sane person to death. I remember that in coldest winter, the place was freezing so that they had to turn on the oven and open its door just to stay warm.

Remember that locked front door with black leather strap, and no way in save for the sign that read "KNOCK LOUD!!"? What was the point; no one could hear you anyway. So the guys rigged up a doorbell of sorts, with an old can and a couple of utensils inside one window, attached to a string that ran to the top of the rickety fire escape rail, and you had to climb to the top and shake the string for all you were worth so they could come down and let you in. And then there was that defining moment when they got all Jack Torrance crazy and kept running around trying to stab a mouse with a fork.

You and I, horrified that people would actually be living there eating a Christmas meal of Kraft Dinner. And I remember how we heated up plate after plate of Christmas fare that you'd managed to doggie bag from all sorts of Christmas parties, loading foil covered containers into a towel lined box in the hatch of my old white and green Omni, and driving over to make their Christmas a little brighter.

That was you all over.

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Hanging at your little two bedroom apartment, just big enough for you and your baby boy. 'Til the squatters moved in. And brought pets. And more squatters. And more pets. And more, and more, and more, and I don't even know how many people were staying with you at any given point in time. Me, the donut shop muffin baker, showing up at your place after shifts, and all of us hanging out in the living room, crammed in tight as sardines, backs against the walls, smoke clouds filling the air, as we played game after game of cards with something like 5 decks combined into one so there'd be enough to go around. "Asshole" was the game. A game for 4, played with something like 20 people. Coming up with new positions for each person, and trying desperately to keep track of who was who. Never knowing what time it was, because that ridiculous pink paper clock with the red handle would freeze, cease, stop, and then run in reverse for awhile? But eventually, I'd go off home and you and the squatters would sleep. I think.

Click-Clack. I still have that clock. It makes me think of you. Good times. Great times.

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Stupid road trips 101. Going to the mountains for a day, and the car breaking down. Suddenly, a one-day excursion became two, as we worked to get a radiator shipped down. And then the baby's cold turned croupy overnight, and we steamed him to ease his breathing. Crazy pictures and tired eyes. Everyone singing that ridiculous "Forever Young" song, over and over ... just the same two lines that I had stuck in my head for something like 8 months, and eventually managed to get stuck in everyone else's heads just as it left mine.

How about the drive across lines just to see your boyfriend, who was trucking at the time? And turning into that town that had nothing but miles and miles of Parkades. And a prison. Had we known then what was to come with that guy, I'm not sure we'd have bothered going to see him. But it was good fun, and made for a good trip, even though you were so sick.

And then the time we went on the ridiculous gravel road trip across two provinces and away up north to help two friends get home when they were having vehicle problems. We really just wanted the drive; otherwise, we'd have wired them cash. But drive we did. And you nearly killing yourself when you unbuckled your belt to check on the baby while I was driving on deep gravel and hit that trench and went into the ditch. Fortunate that we were alright. Weird little town ... nothing but trailer parks. But it was interesting to see.

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I'd write. Always writing. Writing was the norm. Inspired when driving, I'd often show up at your place with the announcement "Paper! I need paper!" You were always happy to comply. Not my biggest fan; really, my only fan. You always made me give you a signed copy of the new lyric sheets, saying they'd be worth something some day.

Music assignments. Me writing frantically, while the war waged around me. Finally we'd break out in giggles. The whole thing was so stupid, there was no other option. You helped me unwind when I'd be so stressed I thought I would chew my face off. Thanks for being there and believing in me so fervently. It helped.

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The fights. The squabbles. The missed weddings. One that I refused to attend, because the guy quite frankly didn't deserve you. And then the other, where I couldn't come because of that stupid little legal proceeding of the ex-casual-girlfriend of your betrothed who I still think was a little bitter and I still don't know quite what happened and how I ended up involved. But it always happened to me, didn't it? Wherever there was trouble, there I'd be, smack dab in the middle of the mess. You were good at getting me out of it and forgiving me my failings.

You were good at getting everyone out of a jam. No matter who was in trouble, you'd find a way to lend a helping hand. You could always see the good.

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Your husband. Your precious young son and daughter. Your family. Your friends. We never saw it coming. We were so blind.

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I didn't know much about Juvenile Diabetes. I only knew that you had it, and that you needed regular insulin injections to combat it. I always knew there was a problem if you were sleeping at an unusual time. And if there was sweat on your upper lip, you needed sugar. The dosing was difficult. I remember coming by on more than one occasion and finding you in such states. You used to say I was your guardian angel, how I'd arrive when you needed me and help you. I liked that.

I never knew quite how you acquired liver disease. You never seemed inclined to talk about it, and I didn't pry. I knew it was there, but we never discussed it, and I was able to turn a blind eye. I all but forgot about it.

When you got gallstones, I wasn't alarmed. Pretty routine. So when you went in to have your gallbladder removed, none of us could have dreamed that you'd not return home.

Tears shed. Court battles. Immeasurable pain as everyone lashed out, all of us trying to cope with our own personal losses. No one doing well with it. Too much pain.

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Today, I stood in that cold space, as dusk turned dark and the wind blew by. There were no flowers today, though I'd gotten them to repair your vase after my last visit. I thought it was sad that there were no flowers. They used to be there, in abundance. But it's been 15 years, and people have moved away and moved on. Next time I visit, I promise to bring you flowers. Maybe the cheap single 7-11 rose like I used to buy you when you needed a quick pick-me-up. Sentimentality was never lost on you.

Today, I stood still, the running vehicle nearby, and I cried. The wound is no longer fresh, but there are some things that never fade completely. Not you. Not even after 15 years. You'll never fade.

My only fan, I stood and sang to you. Your song. I think you would have liked your song. You would have kept a signed copy, in with all the other slightly crumpled lyric sheets, and you would have found it funny that it was originally written in a church parking lot on the inside of a cigarette pack. But you wouldn't have cared about its origins. You weren't like that.

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Song for 'Chelle

Standing on an empty space
Alone without a clue.
Looking for a friendly face,
I looked back and there was you.

And I, sometimes I wondered
What it was that saw you through.
And I, sometimes I wondered
'Bout the friend I'd found in you.
And I, sometimes I wondered
If you'd really be alright,
And I wonder if you're somehow here tonight.

Fearing that your heart would break
If you didn't take a stand.
You took all that you could take,
But you still held out your hand.

And I, sometimes I wondered
How you kept your peace of mind.
And I, sometimes I wondered
How your soul could be so kind.
And I, sometimes I wondered
When your patience would run dry,
And I wonder if you'll soon be stopping by.

Standing on an empty space
Staring through the miles.
So much time I had to waste.
You're gone, but I still see your smile.

And I, sometimes I wonder
If your spirit's in the wind.
And I, sometimes I wonder
If the hurt will ever end.
And I, sometimes I wonder
If you really are alright,
And I wonder if you're somehow here tonight.

I wonder if you're somehow here tonight.


**********

It's you all over.

I miss you, my friend. Always.

8 comments:

The Stiletto Mom said...

I have chills. And goosebumps. And I may need to cry because that was so beautifully written. How lucky she was to have had you love her so much and still have that much love 15 years later. She must have been amazing.

mrsmouthy said...

What a beautiful tribute. I had to skim the last part because everything makes me cry these days. But I'll keep you and your friend in my thoughts today. :)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

WOW...that was deep...really, not being sarcastic at all. Thanks for sharing that.

Momma Trish said...

Stiletto Mom - Thanks for that. She was really amazing. It's hard to lose someone, especially when they're so young. She was only 22 years old and had a great deal to live for. Sometimes, these things don't make a lot of sense.

Mouthy - Thank you. Totally understandable. It's a pretty long post, too. I don't want to make you cry, so I'm glad you skimmed over it and avoided the tears.

Shelle - I didn't think you were being sarcastic. Thanks for reading it.

Kylie w Warszawie said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for that.

Sayre said...

Thank you for the reminder to appreciate my friends while they are still here - while I'm still here.

Rhea said...

I'm so sorry about your friend, I can't imagine how horrible this must be for you. Heart wrenching but sweet tribute.

Momma Trish said...

Kylie w Warszawie - You're welcome, and thank you right back.

Sayre - It's sometimes good to be reminded. I took 'Chelle for granted an awful lot. I miss her.

Rhea - There are some things and some people you never get over. She was a wonderful person, and she is greatly missed.