Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

Dear Marilyn,


I’m at your house sitting on the lanai and watching an impressive thunderstorm whip through the palm trees and create a rapid water flow down the canal. Just the kind of thing you love to watch. But you’re not here with me, and won’t be, ever again. In fact, these next few days will likely be my last moments with this particular view. I soak it in and think of all the hours we’ve sat here together over the last 17 months, your favorite place to whittle away early morning hours and cool afternoons. I’ve seen sunsets and sunrises right here. And watched an alligator amble lazily down the canal. Today the summer bushes bloom with vivid pink flowers and your orchid soaks up the moisture from the rain.

Today’s summer storm finds you in bed, breathing down your final days on earth, with family at your side.  Today your hard fought battle to stay alive ends with your diseased pancreas and liver winning the war.  60 good years Marilyn and 17 months intensely aware of the gift of life.

Marilyn&MeDinnerDuring those 17 months I’ve been hyper-tuned to living too – coming down to Florida to play, commiserate, share confidences, reminisce and to re-energize a friendship that began more than 50 years ago.  Every few months we’d resume our ongoing conversation, as though our past years of periodic contact were mere minutes apart. Our friendship was as easy as always with intimate conversation developing within moments of walking in the door. You’ve always been the perfect blend of friend and sister – frister?  You’re my Byer and I’m your Richey


M,Bob&MeSushiGeeze – was it really 50+ years ago when I’d run two doors down to your house every Christmas morning? Sometimes still in my pajamas, never wanting to be late for presents.  And there was always something under the tree! And a big family dinner to anticipate.

KidsWeekdays we’d rush home from school to watch General Hospital and Days of Our Lives with a giant can of Charles Chips between us – sometimes barbecued, sometimes not. You loved the burnt curled ones, which was perfect because I wanted the big flat chips!  Then during commercials we’d grab a cup of coffee and whatever wonderful something your mother had baked. Or a piece of white toast, butter, sugar and cinnamon. Your house was the only place I ever had that concoction.

Your family summer vacations down the shore always had me in tow. We’d walk the boardwalk looking for cute boys and singing Beach Boy songs. You’d wear short shorts to advertise your beautiful, tan legs.  Mine were covered but I’d display other attributes (wink, wink).  Then we’d talk the night away in bed til your mother  – achem – “asked” us to go to sleep.

Your family picnics, years’ worth of them. Yep – I went to them too. Aunt Edie, Uncle Rennard, Mickey, the Dearys, Uncle Lee – weren’t they my family too?

And all the evenings I had dinner at your house and all the sleep overs where we’d whisper in bed til the wee hours of the morning – even on school nights.

And weekends playing Barbie dolls and as we got older, riding in your Volkswagon Beetle. And sometimes even liking the same boy. That wasn’t as much fun.

And choir practice and colored guard and Marble Hall Swim Club.

Marilyn, Bob, son Michael & family

Marilyn, Bob, son Michael & family


And then Michael was born. You’d just given him a bath and placed him on the bassinette to be diapered then – woosh – his water fountain started and landed in his ear.

We laughed so hard we could barely breathe!

Marilyn's grandchildren

Marilyn’s grandchildren







Down the road came Bob Kile. Oh, I remember hearing about that handsome farmer you met whose blue eyes made your heart melt. You found the one – you told me – and were off to become a farmer’s wife.

Eventually you brought him here, to this house in Venice, FL – where you’ve loved living for 5 years now?  Your beautiful home, beloved lanai, bright sunshine and warm community. It’s where you belonged. And it’s where Bob took very good care of you – in many ways – most recently as a selfless, devoted caregiver.


Marilyn & husband Bob

Marilyn & husband Bob



























Byer, you put up a noble fight these past 17 months & lived well because of it. Your determination kept you going – and fighting spirit inspired everyone around you.  That insistence to hang on catalyzed me to consider some important questions about life.  Thank you for that.

You’ve always been so full of life & so strong – laughed easily, loved big, vivacious and an easy conversationalist. Those who know you would call you a big person – not in size, but certainly in presence.


All the different places you’ve lived, all the different phases of life you’ve experienced, with the same being true for me. Yet we always stayed in touch and up to date on each other’s lives.

M&MebikeYou’ve been an important friend to me Marilyn. And because we’ve had 17 months to talk, you know how and why.  As a kid, I needed you and your family and you were always there, as were your parents. I told them that before they died. And I’ve told you.


What’s left is to say goodbye, my oldest and dearest friend. I love you, I’ll think of you often and I’ll miss you.  Til we meet again …


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It’s been a couple of months since I spent the weekend at Jan’s new retirement home in the beautiful mountainous region of Asheville, N.C.  Before that it had been maybe six years since our last visit, that time at my house in East Tennessee when she and her husband were passing through the area.  Other than that — a couple of periodic visits back to Pittsburgh constituted our time together since the years we were colleagues in that city.  And no matter where or how infrequently we visit, our conversations pick up as though it’s been just a few days since we last spoke.

My friendship with Marilyn is just like that.  We’ve been friends since we were kids, growing up just a few houses apart in the neighborhood where we both spent our childhoods.  We’re as close today as then, though we both went to different colleges, have been through different life experiences and lived in different states since those days.  Each time I see her we start talking and don’t stop until it’s time to leave.  Our bond is as strong as ever and the friendship has grown with the years.

Marianne, my college room-mate, is another life-long friend.  We pick up where we left off and continue from there, each updating the other on the trials and tribulations in our respective lives.  The two weeks I spent at her home last summer were just like the old days, except she went to work each morning and I played in my old stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, visiting other friends and former colleagues accrued during the 13 years living there.

It’s amazing the different roles friends play in our lives.  These days I continue to stay in touch with life-longers while also enjoying my theater friends, bicycling friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, spiritual friends and now email, Facebook and blogging friends.  And of course, my husband, who’s probably my best friend, and my sisters who’ve become close friends over the years.  All of them touch different parts of my essence, exercising various intellectual and emotional muscles within.

A recent piece in the New York Times by Alex Williams challenges our ability to make friends after a “certain age” when a busy life tends to preclude the time necessary for real connections to be established.  He identifies the conditions that sociologists find important in forging friendships to be proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”  Perhaps that’s true; friendship does seem to rely on shared experiences of some kind, though proximity can now be established through the miracle of digital interaction too. I’ve made new Facebook and blogging friends whom I’ve never even met in person.  And bonds with former work friends have grown stronger on Facebook than they were during our work days together.

Two friends

Two friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What we all seem to crave is connection.  For me, friendship is about authenticity.  When we are free to be ourselves with someone else and that someone else still wants to maintain connection, a friendship can be born.

A former hospice patient, for whom I was a companion during the end stages of his life, was described as one who never met a stranger.  What a poignant description of a person who loved to love.  And he was well-loved in return.

Reach out and a new friend can be made.

What do you say about friendship?

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