[A letter to a friend at the end of her journey.]
Dear Sue/Mrs. S*****/Dave’s mom:
I heard you were ill, and it made me sad. I went into law to avoid getting a real job in order to help people, but at times like this, I wish I had gone with medicine. Actually, based on my history with power tools and sharp things, it’s probably better for both of us that I stuck to a career that mostly just requires a big mouth.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for being something of a second mama to me way back when. I remember one afternoon on Cameron St. when I walked out of the kitchen and surprised you coming out of the shower without a robe. You said, “Well, I guess you’re part of the family now.” You and Don and your whole family made me feel that way — sort of an honorary S*****. Making me wear a bell around my neck so you’d hear me coming next time was a little much though.
I still remember those books you kept in Don and Dave’s room about human reproduction. At the time, I really had no idea how those sorts of things worked, or what the differences were or why girls were so weird and goofy, yet good to be around. I remember specifically one time that you made it clear that I could ask you any questions I had about the stuff Dave and I were reading and snickering over. I couldn’t possibly ask you any questions — way too embarrassing — but at the same time it was reassuring to hear you treat this wild and unimaginable mystery, this secret world I wasn’t supposed to know about yet as just ordinary business. No shame, no judgment, no drama — just “what do you want to know?”
Owls. I remember massive numbers of owls. When I go to Hooters (for the wings, I swear), it’s really a tribute to the owls.
OK, that wasn’t at all true.
I remember and am thankful for your involvement in the scouts. It was weird to have camp physicals in the church basement, and a little awkward for me as a 12 year old to have you reading my forms. I have to tell you — I despised Tom-Wat sales, in a “white hot fury of a thousand suns” way. Paper drives at least had some “treasures” to find. I am glad you stayed involved (especially when we needed someone to talk some sense into certain scoutmasters who were bent on overreacting to the silly antics of high school boys. Let’s not go into any specifics about those antics. Just repeat after me: “it wasn’t Dave’s fault!”)
My 20s were kind of a lost time. I didn’t feel judged by you even though I was hiding from life in a series of crappy jobs. I am still sorry for breaking your baby’s face with a golf club. Evidently 20 years is not quite long enough, but Dave may someday forgive me. I was so touched when you came to my wedding. For me that was a huge moment, not only for what it meant for the future, but also what it meant — I got off the sidelines, busted my ass and got my life in position to reach my goals. I wanted you and Don to be proud of me. I knew that, as much with my own parents, any BS about “shoulda, woulda, couda, gonna” would not do. It had to be real and it was. (I still have the juice cooler you gave me.)
I think the last time I saw you was Dave’s high school reunion. Since then, I got single, said good bye to my house and my dog and all semblance of stability for a few years. Life happens. Before things went bouncing down the road to crazy town on the home front, I tried to pop in on you whenever I was in town. That sort of went by the wayside the last few years. I’m sorry. My own mom raised me better, but I hope I get partial credit for seeing Dave and his family every time I was in state.
I righted my ship (again). I bought a house and a pup and have a girlfriend who doesn’t have enough words to describe how much she loves me. Life is grand, but I find myself afflicted with teenagers. At least mine are daughters. I don’t know if raising them is more or less challenging than teenage sons, but I suspect it’s merely a different kind of incomprehensible whirlwind.
One of the lessons I am learning as a parent of teens is that I can’t control who my kids befriend. I can put up roadblocks to slow them down, hopefully long enough to think about what they are doing and whether it is a good thing to be friends with this kid or that. If I taught them well, they will (I hope) make wise choices. It has to work better than setting down a rule I can’t enforce. When I lived on Morgan Street, my Dad forbade me from being friends with Dave. He blamed Dave for a broken windshield, and for generally being a lot more, uh, “free spirited” than me. Big mistake; I was over at your house within the hour. I knew that the rule couldn’t be enforced. I knew who the bad kids were, and Dave wasn’t one of them. My Dad was just wrong, and it was worth the risk. I knew I was making a wise choice. After 40+ years, I am still glad I made that choice and that Dave is my very good friend. I am glad you and your family were part of the package. I hope I didn’t give you too many moments of wondering why Dave would be friends with that idiot Thorson or wondering what you could do to send me away.
(My Dad is still pissed about his windshield, but at least he no longer blames Dave. I think I convinced him it was Howard S******.)
I hope you are finding comfort and peace. I am glad your family is near. As for your unofficial family, know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you for every moment of kindness and guidance. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your life, and a friend to your family.