Guess I’ll Cry come first of May……..Do do do do do do do do doooo
“When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall
Do do do do do do do do do
Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by…….
Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small
And you don’t ask the time of day
But you and I, our love will never die
But guess we’ll cry come first of May……..” BeeGees/First of May
It was a favorite, and we had our own rendition. Over a forty seven year friendship, we would recall how we would sing it together, sometimes with any one or more of the ten women we befriended while living in the college dorm over the four years we would be there.
She was my best of friends, and I only knew her as “Dummy” (only said with the utmost respect and love for someone who had positive impact on my life. She knew me only as “Pug”. Even after college, neither of us felt comfortable calling each by our given names so we remained Dummy and Pug, always.
I do not remember the first time we met, we somehow just gravitated towards each other, connected and there you have it. I am sure that our friendship with two guys who happened to be roommates helped. As freshmen, the college just began to allow women to visit the men’s dorm within set hours. We spent many a time in a closet(this would have special meaning to Dummy if she was reading this, (smiles to myself)), when room checks were done, and women had to be escorted out at 11pm on weekends. We would stay much later and escort ourselves out — out of the windows. Bonding activities at there best!
Over the years we wrote each other and visited each other every now and again for a more rustic camping trip. It was on one of those trips, she brought a gang of her friends. It became apparent to me that many if not all were gay, and one particular woman seemed to mean a lot to my friend. I struggled for a while, not long however, whether I should ask her about “it” or wait for her to approach me about “it”. I knew my friend had struggled at times through college, with what she called a “blue funk”, a depression of sorts, which she always said she didn’t know why or where it was coming from. I figured she discovered why. I quickly decided it wasn’t important — it would not make a difference in our friendship. Besides, I never had to reveal to her that I was heterosexual. I believed she never brought it up because she felt the same way. So we didn’t ever. Don’t get me wrong, we talked about her relationships, her disclosure to her parents, but, we just never had a “by the way, are you gay conversation”. It was this kind of thinking and ease with each other that made us such good friends. What mattered to me was that she was happy and when NJ finally allowed her to marry her partner of 24 years, in 2014, I was more than ecstatic.
To know Dummy as a friend, was to know she would not let your friendship slide by the wayside. She was the one who would usually initiate our visits over the years. Especially, during some of my most troubling times. She never allowed me to remain in my little isolated comfort zone for too long of a time. She accepted, understood, and loved me for who I was, and who I was not. When we did visit, there was always an open non-judgmental ear given. While at different times during our lives, much time would lapse between our reunions, it always seemed as if it was only yesterday that we visited, always able to pick up from where we left, always filling in the gaps of our lives-the good, the bad, the ugly. Her many travels and hiking along the Appalachian Trail, the addition of a new child for me, her brother’s weddings, my children’s escapades, her new nieces and nephews, my new job, and so it went over the decades. Sometimes we just listened to each other in silence as we took in the outdoors or sat with a cup of tea. We were seeing more of each other these last few years, as I had more time off from work and she was retired. So grateful for that.
Last August, she lost a nine year battle with pancreatic cancer. First given only weeks to live, she pursued and gathered information on research and trials being done. She participated in three trials. They no doubt prolonged her life, and two resulted in the treatment drugs now approved by the FDA. Each, however, eventually stopped working.
In August of last year I spent four days with her and her extended family at a camp in New Hampshire. It was important for her to be there for the extended family vacation — a 50 year tradition, always the same weeks in August, always the same rustic cabin by Newfound Lake. First spent with her parents and brothers from the time she was three. Now with her nieces, nephews their spouses and children in addition to her wife and brothers. Sometimes me too, when my schedule would allow it. No matter what, she was determined to be there this year. It was her “happy place”.
We talked about our plans for NH two weeks before, she in good spirits, and sounded so good and I told her so. She told me she felt good. I became hopeful and was glad we would have some time together. I knew that the last trial was no longer working for her and she was awaiting news concerning her eligibility to participate in another. I knew she was deteriorating, but over the last nine years I also have seen her near death and back again. However, she did let me know there would be no hiking Mt. Cardigan this year, but we would find some nice walking trail and do some kayaking which she felt she was up to. Fine with me, my own knees would not survive the hike up a steep mountain these days anyway I told her. My family’s knee genes are finally catching up with me.
A few days before leaving for NH, Peni, her spouse, messaged me that I should not expect much. I let her know that all I expected was some time with my friends. When I parked and walked towards the cabin, she sat in a wheelchair, her back towards me. Though I could only see her shoulders and head, her frail condition shouted at me. I took a breath and moved forward to to greet her and our next four days. Again, we both knew what each other was thinking and were a comfort for each other.
Over the four days, she needed much rest. It was a chore for her to speak, and we spent much time in silence sitting on the screened porch watching the sun set in the evening, and listening for the loons in the morning. I let her know that it was alright to let go, her family was all the better because she was a part of it and they would have her lessons of love, honesty, gentleness, and traditions — some of which she created for them. I thanked her for being my friend all these years, before leaving. Hugged her gently on a Sunday and left for trip home knowing I will not see her again in this life.
My mind was filled with memories flashing, as if I were having a near death experience, conversations repeating, and such a feeling of loss and being lost. I would never have made it home getting on to an interstate, I needed distraction, so I ditched 91 and took a route down through Vermont, a route Dummy had given me long ago, stating I would enjoy the view of the Green Mountains and the tiny towns. It was a difficult, lonely trip — Milo, wasn’t even with me to offer a warm nuzzle of his nose, as he does when he senses I am upset. No dogs were allowed at the camp so it was a solo trip. All I wanted was to sit in silence with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea to hold close some warmth, maybe to replace the warmth of a friend I would no longer have. I stayed on route 5 for a long while then into Massachusetts where I think I connected with the interstate to get me back to PA.
Dummy, was to stay for the rest of the week at camp, but Peni called to let me know she wanted to go home on Tuesday. She died that Thursday, August 25. A most beautiful service was held the following week, where I was asked to give a tribute to her life as friend. I have been wanting to write about our friendship for a long time, attempted several times, too emotional each time. This story is far from complete and would need a multitude of short stories to make it so. So maybe this is just a prelude, maybe not. So for now, Deep breath, sigh, tear, smiles and hands around a hot cup of tea, please join me as the first of May has passed.