I lost a friend yesterday. And in that loss, I became painfully aware of the nuances of our language. “Lost” sounds like I set my friend down, like recalcitrant keys, and forgot where I put her. “Friend” implies a deeper intimacy than “acquaintance;” we were not intimate, yet so much more than mere head-nodding-as-you-pass-by women. My friend, Gloria died. By her own hand. I can tell you some interesting things about her; she was a divorced Catholic with eight grown children. She was retired from many years as a grocery checker. She loved yard sales and flea markets. She shared my love of books, particularly well-crafted mysteries. She loved her significant other, Bob, with whom she had shared 15 years. Bob’s constant memories of his deceased wife had been a third-party in their relationship since the beginning. Yet SHE was lost. Somewhere, in her life, was an inner struggle that I didn’t look deeply enough to see. I truly regret that. What went on in those last bitter, lonely hours, before she made the decision to leave her loved ones behind, who are now struggling with guilt and grief? What horrors in her life made her go against her religion, which believes suicide to be a sin, and to take her own life? I don’t know. I will never know.
Borrowed from deviantart.com
I have lost another friend recently as well, when my best friend of 45 years, without discussion or response from me, decided that our friendship no longer served a purpose. Again, the nuances flutter in my face like angry butterflies and echo in my head with devastating repeats of past conversations. Friend? For 45 years we experienced our lives together. Boyfriends, the senior prom, marriages, childbirth, divorces, remarriages. Parental deaths. Laughing, crying, arguing about books, religion, politics, family, hobbies. I felt we had such a deep root in our friendship, our sisterhood, that it would never die, but would always be there, sometimes in the background, more often in the forefront, a strong presence to rely on, to share with and to enjoy. Where did I miss the signs? What happened to make her so determined to destroy what we had spent decades building and nourishing? I don’t know. I will never know.
The last member of my mother’s immediate family died recently, at 95. As I lost this last Uncle, and reminisced with his sons about our parents, I became achingly aware that in this loss, an official torch had been passed. I am now the senior generation. My parents are both gone, lost to me in the physical sense, but always present in my mind, a kaleidoscope of memories that often bring a sharp burning to my throat and eyes. Did I appreciate them enough when they were alive? Did we ever really understand one another? My Uncle was not a friend, in that I knew almost nothing about him except that he loved ice cream and women. Not necessarily in that order. And although he was “family” he was not an intimate part of my life, as were my parents, as are my sisters and my children. Will I ever be able to wrap my head around being, what seems to be suddenly, a senior citizen, the one family comes to, (or groans over) for family stories, pictures, reminiscences and tall tales? I don’t know. I will never know.
my mother Miriam (1914-2005) and her brother, my Uncle Bill (1917-2012)
Why is it, I wonder, do we become so introspective as we age? Why is it, at around age 40, we begin to search for self, for meaning, for a solid grasp on the nebulous thoughts of spirituality, religion, friendship, loss and family? Why does it matter so much, as we age, that we understand these things, express our beliefs, share our lives, explain our viewpoints, cherish our loves? Why do the delicate, tremulous nuances of our language both tempt and repel me as I attempt once again to express my thoughts and feelings?
I don’t know, and perhaps I will never know. And, guess what? That’s okay.