Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are never a good thing. Even in this day and age of rapid electronic communication, where there is really never a HARD goodbye when someone leaves, having your best friend move across the country simply SUCKS.

That’s what’s going on in my world this weekend. My dearest friend Carmen and her family are moving from Dallas to North Carolina. That’s 1,187 miles away, 17 hours in a car (assuming no one wants to eat or pee) or 3 hours in a plane (thank all that is holy there are direct flights).  It means that I can’t drive 10 minutes away and see her. It means that I won’t meet her for lunch every Tuesday to ogle the hot firemen. It means I won’t have a Saturday morning running buddy while our combined 5 kids gorge on donuts. It means when my husband is driving me crazy and I am contemplating killing him slowly in his sleep I won’t have an alibi that helps me get rid of the body.

Don’t get me wrong, I have other friends both near and far. But Carmen was the first friend I made when we moved to Dallas. My husband was still in Pennsylvania and traveling every week. I was left alone to find us a place to live, manage the move across country and start a new job where I was often traveling.

Enter Carmen, we were paired on a tennis court playing these two particularly vacuous bims that were playing well out of their depth. After what seemed like the 20th bad call they had made I finally lost my cool and made a delightfully salty comment under my breath as I was walking back to the baseline. I thought I had said it low enough that no one would hear it. Carmen, with ears that only mothers have, heard it and laughed out LOUD and for a very long time. We ended up losing that game (although not the match) because Carmen couldn’t quit laughing.

It was at that moment I knew we were going to be friends. I was right, 14 years later, we have been through more than any two people should probably go through. 14 years later she still makes me laugh harder than most anyone. We know all of each others stories, strengths, weaknesses, faults, flaws, frailties. We have picked each other up and patted each other on the back. We’ve celebrated highs and lows. She’s the sister I never had (and yes I have a sister) and never knew that I needed. Over the past 14 years here are a few of the things we have been through:

  • The combined birth of 4 children and one miscarriage. My son and her third child were born 5 days apart. Because of issues with kidlet at birth the two boys actually went home on the same day.
  • The almost break-up of my marriage and the death of the love of my life. She was there every step of the way. She made me laugh on days that all I wanted to do was climb under the nearest rock and disappear. She helped remind me that I am stronger than I think I am.
  • The death of both of her parents, both tragically too early, and entirely too close together. I sang at both of their funerals and it ranks as one of the hardest things I have ever done. Helping her clean out their home and acknowledge that while her parents were gone, she wasn’t really alone in this world still brings tears to my eyes.
  • More weight gained and loss than either of us will ever admit to. We will honestly tell each other when our asses are getting a bit too big, then we will suck it up and work out with the other one to get said asses back to acceptable levels.
  • An unexpected late life pregnancy (it involved a husband that didn’t get the vasectomy he promised). I was in the delivery room with her although I resolutely refused to put on baby weight with her.
  • All three of my sons surgeries three years ago. She sat in the waiting room with us and prayed and joked and just generally kept me from going insane. She made sure there were home cooked meals at the house while we were in the hospital. She kept all of our well-meaning friends and family at bay and updated people on kidlet’s status daily so that we could focus on him.
  • Thirteen “tennis” weekends where we went away to “play” tennis for the weekend. Truth told, we only did that the first two years. The other 11 we checked into a spa hotel and spent the weekend either shopping, getting spa treatments, drinking or lounging by the pool – don’t tell our spouses.
  • Thirteen Christmas parties, seven Christmas Eve open houses, more birthday parties than either of us care to count and enough wine to cover them all.
  • 6 nannies, 2 au pairs, 5 dogs, 6 cats, a billion fish, 1 turtle, 4 hamsters and 1 ill-advised snake (that got loose in her house meaning I refused to visit until it was found)
  • 11 club championships in tennis including one shortly after our 42nd birthdays where we trained zealously for 6 weeks in a Texas summer because two 20 year olds suggested we were too old to compete
  • More rounds of golf than we could calculate and all of the necessary alcohol to go with that
  • 9 kabillion soccer, baseball, basketball, pee wee football, swim meets/game/matches
  • 4 christenings, 3 first communions and one memorable Easter when I dropped the F bomb, in church, VERY loudly.

Those are just the highlights. They don’t begin to cover all of the little things that fall in between. The 27 texts a day. The inside jokes that probably aren’t that funny but can dissolve both of us to giggles. The shared quirks that we were certain no one else had until we met each other.

It is a lifetime shared in the space of 14 years. She is the keeper of all of my secrets. Oh, others know a lot about me. A few have known me vastly longer. But she knows everything about me. She’s read the book I’ve been working on for ages and actively pushes me to finally finish it. She held my hand as I had a miscarriage for a child I didn’t even know I wanted and prayed as they rushed me into surgery. She’s been my rock for so long that I don’t know where she ends and I begin. I can’t imagine not having her a short drive away.

I know we will stay friends (we already have our next “tennis” weekend booked). We will adjust to the distance and will learn to work a bit harder to stay close. Hopefully, we will appreciate our friendship all the more for it. But I can’t help but think that a small piece of my soul will be in that Suburban as she pulls away on Monday.

When I was a teenager my great grandmother told me to pick my friends wisely. Her reasoning was simple, women generally outlive men. Spouses come and go but good girl friends are with you forever. At that point in her life she had buried three husbands and her dearest friend was the woman she met the first day my great grandfather brought her home from WWI. I remember thinking that I had probably just been given the best advice I would ever receive (although she later gave me some excellent advice about sex – but that’s a story for a different day). The last 14 years have proven her advice true. I either chose very wisely or fate decided to help me out. Either way I am eternally grateful to dead grandmothers, fate and two of the worst boob jobs I have ever seen. They all conspired to bring me the best friend I have ever had.