Some weeks are just harder than others. I was in a deep sleep Sunday morning when the phone rang at 7 a.m. I picked up the receiver and immediately recognized the voice. The voice was low and strained with emotion. Something was terribly wrong.
When my son Matt was in middle school he fell madly in love with a beautiful curly-haired blonde girl named Chayna. The two were precious together. Their romance blossomed in the days before cell phones. Matt and Chayna tied up the land line every night. They dreamed dreams and made plans and couldn't stand to be apart. They were too young to drive, so either I or Chayna's mom drove them to and from movies, school events and the mall. I can't remember exactly the first time I met Chayna's mom Deanie, but we clicked immediately. We both were/are both the kind of mom who wanted to know where her child was, with whom, for how long, and what he or she was doing!
Chayna came to our house for dinner often and Matt went to hers. I remember one time Deanie told me that my usually polite son asked her about a dish she was serving.
"Are these supposed to be mashed potatoes?" he asked. That started a friendly rivalry about who was the better cook.
One summer during the era of Matt and Chayna's romance, we caravanned to San Francisco. Deanie, in her trademark Jeep, lead the way to Vallejo where we parked the cars and boarded the ferry to San Francisco. We had a fun day in the city until we missed the last ferry back to Vallejo and had to take the Greyhound. The ride took several hours which seemed even longer with our five sulking kids. Deanie and I still laugh about that adventure more than 15 years later.
When Matt and Chayna broke up in high school (Matt told Chayna she could keep the stuffed Garfield he'd given herthe one he got from his grandmaeven though she loved someone else), Deanie and I remained friends and we've grown closer each year.
She organized a surprise birthday party for my 50th, accompanied me when I was scared to have an MRI, and visits me as often as she can. When I go to Grants Pass, Ore., I stop to see hersometimes it's just for a few minutes at her office, other times we go out to lunch or sit at her kitchen table and catch up.
Chayna married a couple of years ago, but I still refer to her as my "ex-future-daughter-in-law." Now that she is 8 months pregnant, I've been sharing in the family's excitement about the new baby boy who will arrive in four weeks.
Deanie adopts dogs, feeds wild birds, drinks hot tea and loves to garden. She is always upbeat, smiling and proud of her kids (and mine). She still e-mails me when she sees my son Collin who lives in Grants Pass ("Collin sighting last night. Girl he was with was very cute. He gave me a big hug.").
It was painful to hear her tired, strained voice on the phone last Sunday morning. Her husband was in the hospital recovering from what was deemed a successful surgery. But she had just gotten the pathologist's report. The cancer was not contained. There was more.
Perhaps this seems like an ordinary story. But Deanie is an extraordinary woman who deserves a lighter load to bear. As I went through the paces of my life this week, Deanie's Sunday morning voice echoed through me, reminding me that we all should stop to remember good times and honor good friends.