“Forever Friends,” column for March 20, 2012

What do you call it? That moment when someone walks into your life, opens a door in your heart, puts their feet up on your coffee table and makes themselves at home? When you realize that the stranger you just met is going to be a part of you forever? There ought to be a name for that.
I remember such a moment with my friend Donna. I was eight-months-pregnant, sitting in church with my husband on a foggy Sunday morning waiting for the service to begin.
I don’t know why we were early that day. Usually, we were late. The pastor welcomed the congregation and instructed us to greet one another.
So I struggled to my feet. (It was my third pregnancy, I had the size, agility and disposition of pregnant elephant seal caught on the rocks at low tide.) Then I turned to the pew behind me and looked into the smiling blue eyes of a woman who was almost pregnant as I was. And that was it, we were friends.
How does that happen? What kindles the spark between two kindred souls?
In our case, it was probably our unique sense of humor. We both liked to laugh, and laughed at the same strange things.
We couldn’t have known that at the start, of course. There wasn’t much to laugh about in the sermon. But at one point, I snickered at something the pastor said, and when I heard Donna snicker, too, I looked over my shoulder and gave her a big knowing grin.
It’s a comfort to know you’re not the only soul in the entire congregation who thinks something is funny.
In time, we would find that we also cried at the same things, but that would come later.
We were both in our 20s, young wives and mothers with picture-perfect lives looming before us, husbands we loved, children we adored, scrapbooks of dreams waiting to be filled.
We had no idea, not one clue of all that lay in store.
That was more than thirty years ago. Our babies grew up and we grew with them. Our hips grew wider and our roots got grayer and life was not quite as picture-perfect as we had dreamed it would be. But somehow we kept laughing. And through it all, we were friends.
We talked. We listened. We laughed. We cried. We drank a lot of iced tea. We shared each other’s joys and bore each other’s burdens. That is what friends are for.
Our marriages ended within a year of each other’s. I was widowed, she was divorced. Then she moved away and it became harder to keep in touch.
Some people are good about staying connected. I am not one of those people. Lucky for me, Donna was. And she still is.
Every year she sends me a Christmas card with pictures of her children and grandchildren. And on my birthday, she calls without fail. If I don’t answer, she leaves a message. Sooner or later I call her back and we will talk for an hour.
This time it was one hour and 19 minutes before my phone’s battery started chirping.
I hate it when it does that.
It wasn’t nearly long enough, but we did a fair job of covering the bases _ our new lives, new husbands, new homes, our children and grandchildren.
Mostly, we just laughed. We ended it, as we always do, with a promise to try to get together before yet another year goes by.
I hope we will. If not, I know she will call me on my birthday.
When you share so much history with someone _ when you know things about each other that no one else knows _ you pick up exactly where you left off, as if you’d never spent a day apart, let alone a year.
What do you call that moment when someone walks into your life and never lets you go?
I call it a gift.

Comments

  1. Gary says:

    Today was the first time I read your column. “When someone walks into your life and never lets you go”, touched my heart. I like others had a “gift” like your friend Donna.

    We also spoke and said we would get together some day having moved apart decades ago.
    Unfortunately, he died suddenly in his early fifties. I think of him often. I truly wish I had taken the time to travel and do that “get together” since I was the one who did not keep up the communications. My hopes are that a future column will be about your trip to visit your
    “gift” Donna.
    Gary

  2. Beth Purser says:

    I enjoyed reading your columns so much, I find them so inspirational (and funny). I just had to reply to this one! My forever friend is named Tina. We have been friends for almost 30 years now. We met on the softball field before a practice and since we were both new to the team, neither one of us had anyone to warm up with. Tina spoke first and she asked “do you wanna throw?” We hit it off and believe me, we have been praticing ever since (just not on the field anymore) but in this game called “life.” Both of our lives have been full of strike-outs, as well as the occasional home run, but we are still playing in this game of life and cheering each other on. That’s what forever friends are all about! Thanks again for sharing your adventures and stories.

  3. Alice Anderson says:

    Sharon, I too have such a friend. I met her in 1978 when my husband and I and his identical twin brother and his wife went to Sweden for the first time to reunite with our Swedish kin. Annnemarie Ohlsson was our young hostess. We were guests in the ancestral home built in the 16oos. Annemarie’s and my soul found each other. She will be arriving July 15, for her 16th visit, just to spend her semester (Swedish for vacation) with me. She insists I am not old. She is 60 and in June I will be 91! We use every moment to refuel for the coming year. I have warned her that I may live to be 100 just to be able to spend another vacation together.

    Annemarie is an Administrative Assistant for the Electrolux Mfgr. Co . She says she must travel all this distance to renew her spirits. She was married at one time, no children but she does have her own special companion who is a famous Swedish band leader. Now in retirement, he is in great demand as a saxaphone soloist giving concerts in Scandanavia with choirs and choruses in large State Churches. Ingamar Nordstrom is 8l years young. He was widowed from his childhood sweetheart and wife who suffered from dementia for many years. Annemarie was just a choir member who helped a tired performer get something to eat after a concert. Age differences? To this beautiful woman it’s…just a number!

  4. Patty Ortiz says:

    Thank you for your story. I,too, have a forever friend named Sandy. She is also my son’s mother-in-law (we introduced our children to each other!) and a very special person. And my gift.

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