I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for well over two hours now, surfing Pinterest and Facebook, procrastinating. I decided not to publish my original post for this week because it seems too trivial today … My oldest childhood friend is about to bury her father. He was sick for only two weeks. It came on suddenly and swiftly, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the inevitable would happen. In the days leading up to his passing, Sharon and I communicated mainly through text message, but the one time we spoke on the phone, I was struck by how calm she was. Pragmatic and strong, almost at peace with what was happening, but heartbroken nonetheless.
Sharon and I have been friends since we were four years old. That’s almost 40 years! We’ve always been very different, but it’s worked.
In second grade, I used to bring a jelly sandwich to school for lunch and she’d bring a peanut butter one so we could swap one side of each sandwich to make two new, less-squishy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — one for each of us. In junior high, our friendship took a hiatus (typical pre-teen girl stuff), but by high school graduation we were close again. Post-college, we both moved back to the city — I lived on the West side, she lived on the East. We got married two months apart and had our first babies three days apart (in the same hospital). We shared many milestones together, even after she moved to Connecticut. But when I moved to Pennsylvania a few years later, something changed. Visits became rare, phone calls sparse and even emails and texts have been limited over the past couple of years. I didn’t realize how far we had drifted until my last two birthdays passed without a card, call or text from her.
We’re all busy. Life with kids is hectic. But it’s more than that. People change over time. Friendships change, too, and sometimes they even end. My connection to Sharon has certainly been altered over the past few years, but it’s still there. It hasn’t ended, it’s just different. I was sad at first, even a little angry at this revelation. But now I can appreciate how we’ve both grown and changed (it has been almost four decades) and I’ve come to accept what we have now. We may not be as close as we used to be, but the relationship is still important and worth holding on to. So in the morning, I am driving up to New York to pay my respects, lend a hand and show my support for an old friend and her family. I hope my presence strengthens our bond. I hope it brings back memories of happier times. I hope it helps ease the pain, even if only a little bit, because that’s what friends do for one another.
Rest in peace, Mr. McLaughlin.