Favorite places important to some. Favorite colors, too. And weather, music, memories. Myriads of favorites, I would posit, make up our lives at whatever ages. Most of us have longtime favorite friends. But not always.
Meet Suzanne. This is how we meet. Okay, first while my son is earning his MA I decide to return to school to complete my undergrad. Three years of attending full time while working part time. As graduation nears some of us are spending an evening calling alumni from the Evanston campus for contributions. Since I’ll be driving from the city the coordinator asks if I might pick up Suzanne from her nearby apartment. “Sure,” I say and do.
Approximately an hour each way we visit. She is from Wyoming and is an executive at the Railroad Retirement Board. We seem to have similar interests, taste and humor. We see one another again on the Northwestern grounds, graduation day where she introduces me to her friends and I my son, daughter and son in law to them. Suzanne and I decide to stay in touch and we do. I’m so glad too.
We go together to become docents at the Chicago Historical Society so attend information sessions, some days both do tours, and enjoy special docent events such as the dinner on a boat on Lake Michigan from which I walk home in my bare feet because my sandals hurt. Whatever. We laugh alot. We just always have the nicest times.
Her friend, who has front row Symphony seats often takes us to dinner, drops us off for the performance, then picks us up to take us home. How great is that. Sometimes just she and I go out to dinner or a movie, others when I am entertaining she is, of course, included. There is so much about her and our relationship that is wonderful. She isn’t judgemental – that’s a plus – she is intelligent, well mannered, and so thoughtful; my degree is in political science and one holiday I receive as a gift from her of a White House ornament.
While a new friend, I often think of her as my favorite friend. Sadly we are only friends for six or seven years when she learns she has cancer. Why? She is slight, jogs everyday, doesn’t smoke or drink save an occasional glass of wine. She is so pretty, kind, and happy. She is the best company. I pray for a cure.
Her brother is visiting from Wyoming one holiday and I invite her to bring him along to a Christmas Eve get together – mostly my family and a few friends. He is great and clearly enjoys our company as much as we enjoy his. Must run in her family. As they leave the quiet festivities I suggest they take ham home as we’ve so much and think they might enjoy it. They decline, graciously. Soon after there is a knock at the door. I’m pretty certain it isn’t Santa Claus – they’ve decided after all they would like to take some ham. I wrap it, we exchange another hug and kiss and they are happily on their way into the snowy winter night. Perfect.
The phone rings a short time later. OMG. As Suzanne and her brother leave the second time they encounter a horrific auto accident at the corner they would have been crossing if earlier. So grateful they miss a potential fatality.
Medically, things are not going well for my friend. She is staunch, continues to work which I wouldn’t be able to do. Sometimes I bring her dinner and we visit optimistically on the balcony of the lovely condo she buys a few years before. Then, within only the length of a year or so she’s gone. Deep sadness is an understatement. Missing her, too, as I continue to do.
Especially at Christmastime. Every year since the first favorite ornament I carefully place upon the tree is the thoughtful favorite gift of an especially favorite friend. Thank you God for putting Suzanne into my life if only for a time. A favorite time.