I may be the only person awake in the whole world just now, for all I know. It is pitch dark out now. The moon lights up patches of earth, here and there. The world is silent and almost cold in these hours before day. With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I am off today. I had planned to write this morning, all along, for I am a “morning writer “.
I had many thoughts in my head, for I had visited with Ryan and then at long last, had a weekend with Lyla and Brynn. What bright days. The leaves here have finally turned golden and scarlet – and apricot and the sweet gum has splashes of plum! Some days the sky is as blue as a morning in May and other days it is a soft pewter. I can not say, which days are loveliest, for I love them all. I had intended to write my accounts of strolling with the grandchildren on a sidewalk under crimson maples -and later by an indigo river. . . but something happened that changed everything.
My dearest friend, Julie died yesterday.
I have written about Julie before and she was always pleased, when I did. The first time, I wrote about her, she was sure, that she was famous, at long last. She read every comment. Each one thrilled her and so I let Julie bask in her glory, with delight
I met Julie in that awful season of middle school. My cousin “Cookie” was Julies’ friend and that is how I came to know her. Julie had a coolness about her and it took years for me to know her. By chance, we became neighbors later on, and we were soon “as thick as molasses in January.” Our children were young then (and so were we). Our lives were so entwined that the children seemed a joint commodity. I worried over her daughter Haley, when she was having trouble with math and I was distraught when little Katelyn had headaches. Julies’ daughters attended a private school for a while, run by very religious Dutch folks. Each year, the school celebrated their heritage with a festival. Parents were to make dishes from ancient recipes. One year, Julie was to make an apple bread. She handed me the recipe, for it was as much my problem as it was hers’ after all. I read the thing and said”we will need a bushel of apples and an entire day! When I went back to help her bake, there was a case of some sort of “instant apple bread mixes” on the counter. I felt guilty about her plan, but Julie did not in the least. I will not tattle on the year she made fudge, for the whole school -and in an hour or so, of her time. I could only hope, that it was eaten fast. Julie doted on my children. . . and did so, up until her last hour.
Our friendship did not end, when the children grew up, nor when I moved to the rabbitpatch. Julie spent many weekends here and loved the country, as much as I did. We canned tomatoes together and peeled apples. We ate beets and split pea soup .We discussed books . . many books. In the winter, Julie and I would study subjects together. We studied native American culture, religions of the world and all sorts of philosophies. Julie was always an avid student of all things, and her brain was quick as lightening. She was a firm believer in speaking her truth and did so every single chance she got. Julie did not let me get by with poor judgement , whether I wanted to hear it or not. . . and was quick to call me out on matters. Oh what a craft, she had of easing into something . .and then “BOOM!” she would spew out the truth like an exploding water pipe . . then she would tenderly wipe your tears. Really, Julie was always right, when it came down to it. She always accused me of being too soft hearted and I accused her of being “salty” and “down right sassy” . . in this case we were both right.
We used to love thrift stores and some Saturdays we took off with about twenty dollars between us and came home with old china and books, somehow. It was not uncommon, for us to show up at the check out with something for each other, for we knew each others’ taste, thoroughly. One year we traded Christmas gifts wrapped in the same paper with the same fine soap inside.
Can you believe that sometimes, as we drank coffee and ate cookies, that we would pretend entire scenarios ? -like children. It would start something like, “what if . . we lived in an old house of stone, in Vermont” . . and off we went on an adventure. After we had invented grumpy neighbors and a flock of orphaned children, we’d taken in and snow and a warm hearth and a horse and sleigh . . well, we would burst into laughter at our childishness. I don’t suppose that I know any other all grown up person, who would do that.
When the grand children came along, Julie and I were as different as night and day, at grand mothering. I was putting carrots in pancakes and Julie tossed hers a bag of candy . . for lunch! I was choosing poems for Lyla to memorize, while her parents were out and in Julies own words, she ‘was just trying to keep hers’ alive till their parents got back.” Make no mistake about it, Julie loved her grandchildren and declared them, her reason to live , often.
I could never keep any secret from Julie. It seemed unnatural and somehow unholy. Besides, Julie loved me no matter what and I was confident of that. In one of my worst tantrums, Julie asked me what was wrong . . and I said with hot tears “I hate everybody!” Julie said, “me, too, . . now what is wrong?”
Julie suffered a lot in the last decade. She had one heartbreak after another. She had blood pressure problems which led to a stroke and blinded her temporarily. Then she had kidney problems and ended up on dialysis. She had her legs amputated a few years back, several more strokes- and was recovering from a recent one. . .til at last, she did-fully and whole now , on she went.
Julie never complained. It is still shocking to me, to consider that. She may have been a wild card , and she may have wielded truth with a heavy hammer, but she trusted God with her whole heart . I was constantly in awe of that and rendered speechless with her courage. Julie was an “an act of valor” Her battlefield was in her own backyard.
I wished I could say that I am so happy, that Julie and Daddy were in Heaven with great joy, . . . And yes, for goodness sakes, I know that I can still talk to them. I will always be thankful, I had them and “they are still “with me” and “time heals all’ . . .but right this minute . . . I am but a mere human. Not enough time has passed. . . . and that “bright shore of Heaven” . . . seems so very far away.