Loyal To A Fault

I don’t believe in gray areas.  If I like someone … it’s genuine.  And because my fondness for most people knows no bounds — we will likely end up friends for life.  Oh sure, you may be reluctant about it, but my devotion is endless.  It’s a perk, me thinks, of being both an Aries and born in the year of the dog.  Dog = loyal. Aries = steadfast. On the flipside, if I don’t care for someone – you’ll be readily aware of it too.  Never in my wildest dreams would I be nice to someone’s face and then turn around and talk smack behind their hateful backs. I’d rather just let them I know – up front — I loathingly despise them. It cuts out the middle school middleman.

Since my new job affords me the luxury of travel, I’m constantly reminded how many good friends I’ve accumulated over the years. They’re sprinkled from coast to coast. Rarely do I stumble in to a random city without knowing someone to grab grub/hang out/play badminton with. Playing catch-up is one of my favorite contact sports.

Over the weekend in Chicago, I lovingly stalked a high school friend I hadn’t seen in easily 20+ years. Cindy Dorsch was my co-pilot on various random road trips back and forth to college. I have kept close to her via the magic of social media. We’re both a little heavier and, oddly, a little blonder now – but we picked up right where we left off: drinking wine, gossiping about boys and discussing what we want to be when we grow up.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

And while I probably could have gotten a hotel room in Chicago – it’s always more fun to crash on someone’s couch. Cue my friend Steve Meinke. When I met him fifteen years ago, he was an obnoxious lout – but in an imminently likeable sort of way. Despite his juvenile behavior, I clued in on his heart of gold and larger than life personality. We immediately bonded. Steve recently got engaged to his fiancé Anna. Truth be told, I like her better than Steve. Anna and I picked up right where we left off: making fun of Steve and trying desperately not to laugh at his antics. (Steve need not be encouraged.) I’ve crashed on their sofa sleeper so many times I’m starting to know which side offers better lower lumbar support.

When I spied my next assignment in Flint, Michigan, I immediately called my college BFF Heather in Ypsilanti and said, “SAVE ME!” Without so much as a bat of an eyelash, Heather scooped me up from the Detroit Airport for a day of shopping, noshing and a really upscale pedicure at a really downscale Korean nail salon.  How tight are Heather and I? I was in her big fat Greek wedding seventeen years ago. We’ve stayed tight ever since. She and her hubby Adam went out of their way to be the hosts with the most while I was in town. Can’t wait to pay back all their hospitality when they stumble in to KC.

How did I meet Heather? She was Dorsch’s roomie back in college. Oh, what a tangled web of friendship I weave. Forget Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon … if you and I are tight, you’ll eventually know all my random friends.  Need a place to crash in Chicago? Call Steve. Need to bond over a pedicure in Detroit? Call Heather. Need to gossip about life, love and the pursuit of Chardonnay? Call Dorsch!

Pals. Amigos. Buds. Friends. Whatever the term … I’m proud I’ve remained chummy with them for so many years.

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Two Months Without Bev

If you’ve ever unexpectedly lost a parent, you know that grief can be a cruel mistress. Last month around this time, I was on the edge of tears 24/7. The littlest thing … the most mundane comment … the most considerate question would send me in to unrelenting waterworks.

On the morning of the one-month anniversary of Mom’s death, I was walking down the stairs to the kitchen when suddenly – for whatever reason — I ceased to function. I immediately plopped down on the stairwell and bawled.  I sobbed like I’ve never sobbed before – guttural and churning. There may have even been wailing … I frankly can’t remember. It was an out-of-body experience I never wish to experience again. I was walking out the door to go to work and it happened again. Needless to say, I was late to the office that day.

Two months in, I’m subjected to the new normal in my life. Mom’s not around … but yet she is.  Ever since she passed away, I will inexplicably wake up at 5:30am every morning without fail. No alarm. No pressing bladder.  My eyes just automatically open. 5:30am … that was about the time Mom would usually start her day. And now – even though I’m buried under mounds of covers – I will enthusiastically greet her and say, “Good morning, Mom!”  Granted, I may or may not go back to sleep … but for the last sixty days the spirit of Mom compels me. When I’m home, I always make a point to drink tea out of her giant “Mom” coffee mug — because it reminds me so much of her it hurts.

Work has resumed. Life has resumed. People go on about their daily routines. And as much as I’d like to fall back into that pattern, there are always reminders that Mom is gone.  For instance, who would have thought that an 82-year old woman would never miss an episode of “The Walking Dead”? The show resumes its season tonight and I’m not going to be able to rehash the show with Mom tomorrow morning. It was a cute, yet weird mother-son bonding moment that I’ll truly miss.

The cavalcade of visitors who have come over to see my dad has been awe-inspiring. My friends have relentlessly been swinging by to visit or bring him food.  Everyone wants to check in on him and make sure he’s doing okay. It’s a true testament to the kind of friends I have.  My appreciation is endless. It’s also a nice ode to Mom — who always watched over Dad like a hawk. To say he misses her would be an understatement, but I always remind him that she is everywhere. Her spirit reigns supreme in our house. I came to visit this weekend and, well, her presence is definitely around. Mom’s energy is palpable … and it’s both calming and soothing at the same time.

Two months in, everything is still bittersweet – but it’s getting better. Yesterday, I filled up all her birdfeeders and it only took .04 seconds for a bright red cardinal to land on the snowy patio. I know that was a sign – a sign I didn’t even have to look for.  I’m looking forward to the spring when I can plant flowers around the house – a tradition that will live on as part of Mom’s legacy.

In the meantime, keep checking in on me and keep checking in on Dad. There are now more good days than bad, but you’d be surprised how a simple phone call, text or, um, tater tot casserole can make the day a little brighter.

Mom would be pleased.

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