Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goodbye, again

Some of Betsy and Ed's guests
are pictured at a reading in their home.
Jeanne Peterson, who wrote "Falling from Heaven,"

and I read from our books and answered questions.

Thirty-five years is a long time. It’s a lifetime, for example, as far as my daughter is concerned. It’s also the amount of time Betsy and I have been friends. I mark this time less in years and more in seconds. Betsy has been a continual presence, even if she now lives in San Diego — a good 2,500 miles West as American Airlines flies.

There’s no such thing as always but that’s the way I think of Betsy. “Betsy and I always eat good food when we get together.” “We talk a lot.” (always is implied) “Betsy and I have a phone date at 4,” I tell Jim in such a way as to mark the occasion sacrosanct. “Here we go again,” I tell Betsy, “speeding up every time we talk and walk.”

Continuity is not really part of my life experience. I carry almost nothing from the first 17 years of my life. Running away from home and staying hidden till you reach 18 meant, for me, taking whatever I could carry in one small suitcase. Since then, I’ve made major moves across several states, changed jobs several times, and practiced serial monogamy most of my life.

Without a grandmother’s attic in which to find the old clothes and photographs and artifacts that stitch continuity into a life, I tend to think more in chapters than scenes, more in ends and beginnings than in transitions.

Betsy is far more than a yardstick, of course, though today I’m not wise enough or awake enough to think deeply and creatively about the rich and complicated nature of our friendship. That’s more of a book, actually, and Betsy and I have, in fact, read books about long friendships like ours.

I should clarify: Betsy’s not a yardstick in any metaphor I use to think about our friendship other than the comforts of continuity. I do see how I’ve grown whenever Betsy and I have a rare chance to be together face to face. On this visit I thought: I’m almost worthy now. That’s saying a lot.

It may not be friendship enhancing to say this, but Betsy is a lifeline. I wouldn’t know what to do without her. She knows me. She supports me. She comforts me. I don’t want it to be one-sided. I try to give back. The other day I gave her a nifty roll of doggie poop bags. Another time it was some dessert wine from a winery in central California and a delicious olive oil from Los Olivos. I give her things I value — exalted status of best friend, an introduction to Jim, whatever time she should ever want to discuss the novel she’s working on. Anything, really. Just ask.

The trip West is complete. Betsy and her husband Ed are more deeply embedded in my heart than I imagined possible. As I turn my attention to far less interesting matters than Betsy and Ed’s incredibly meaty, sweet heirloom tomato varietals, I do so feeling a little stronger and a little humbler at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention the book of dog poems that you impulsively and thoughtfully gave me the Sunday after the party as we were walking around the used book store in Hillcrest. The gift is perfect, made more so by the understanding behind it. I arrived home after my 950-mile drive and teared up because it made me miss you. Now, once again, it makes me smile. And don't forget the sunglasses...I wore mine across the Mojave and beyond to Colorado. Simple things but reminders of all the years, complexities and wonders of 35 years as friends.