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Letter No. 3: Dear Lifelong Friend

52 Letters

Dear Karen,

Thirty-three years is a long time.

In that time, I feel like we’ve both lived many lives. We’ve seen joyful births. We’ve seen heartbreaking deaths. There were times when we weren’t as close. There were times when you knew the depths of my sorrow like no one else.

There are times that I can’t remember. And times I could never forget.

Someday when we’re old and gray (okay, I admit that I’m already just a bit gray), I hope we’ll sit and laugh about so much of our lives, both together and apart.

When we met, I wasn’t even “me” yet. I had an idea of who I wanted “me” to be, but it was a distant dream. I think I often took a wrong turn or got distracted by the next shiny thing, or next shiny friend. But you’d always bring me back to the part of me that was “real.” I couldn’t slap on the makeup and fancy labels and become someone else, because you always saw the scared, but fearless me that lived in the core.

Maybe your ability to see me was formed in the late nights when we sang Madonna and Michael Jackson into hairbrushes and jumped off our mattresses on the floor. Maybe that honesty grew when we cried over stolen boyfriends or leaving parents. Maybe we slowly grew up as we dreamed of being something more than teenagers working at Kings Island or the Gap.

Somewhere along the way we grew from ten-year-olds to women living lives that I hope are worthy of our dreams whispered in the dark at sleepovers. We’ve grown from teenagers swooning over the next love of our lives to marriages that sustain us and kids who drive us (only a little bit) crazy.

Oh, the lessons I’ve learned from having a lifelong friend like you.

You taught me that disagreement doesn’t mean rejection.

We are both strong personalities. There were times when we disagreed or were short with one another. But you still loved me and you were still there. Whether in a marriage or a friendship, unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional agreement; it means commitment. And your commitment to our friendship has always been something I’ve cherished.

You taught me that family is not always by blood.

I think our younger years were spent shuttling back and forth so much to one another’s houses that our moms could have claimed the job “Taxi Driver” to the IRS. I can never forget little moments of laughter and big moments, like my wedding shower, that were all at your house. And I loved that at that house, my glass of milk was always by my plate for dinner, standing stark and white amongst tea glasses for every member of your family. Your mom always remembered that I didn’t like tea.

And when all of a sudden, your mom was gone, I missed little things like that about her.

I’m sure you miss them even more. And all the little daily things I never got to see that made her unique. But if all I can do is tell you I think of her, I hope that’s something. When we sat with her in hospice, when she’d passed, when we sat at her funeral, I just wanted to be there for you. To sit with Job, as it were. And to remember her.

The quiet and calm nature of your mom was a gift.

You also taught me that sometimes the imperfect is what makes life the most perfect.

Remember how your knee was in a brace and you had to slowly walk down the aisle as my maid of honor? You were such a trooper. And that day was filled with so many things that didn’t go according to plan, it just seemed to fit in with all the time we spent laughing at the imperfect over the years. Our hair, for one.

You never left me alone, even when it wasn’t our plan.

When Case was diagnosed with Hunter Syndrome and I was swallowed whole into the world of rare diseases, it was so isolating. None of my close friends at the time lived in that world and I would have never wanted them to. So when you fell into this world with your third baby, is it terrible to confess that it was both painful and comforting? I felt less alone. And the story of our lives interwoven continued. But I hate that you now feel the same pain and heartache as a parent that I do.

Yes, we’ve lived many lives. And I think there are still many left to come.

We now have kids older than when we met. Our lives are circling back in a way that is sometimes hard to fathom. Lord willing, we will watch these children go through some of the same struggles we went through in high school. Being that you’re still in Cincinnati, maybe yours will spend the summers at Kings Island, watch the WEBN fireworks, or sit at Skyline Chili into the night just like we did.

Someday we may marry them off, and be like our own parents at each other’s kids’ weddings. They may have children and then we’ll start this cycle all over again.

And when we’re older and grayer, I hope we’ll sit on the porch for coffee, pull out all the old pictures of us in 80’s neon, Aqua Net hair, and pegged jeans, and laugh like we are 16 again.

Because that’s how I’ll always remember us.

Younger in my mind than in my gray hair,

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Last modified: December 31, 2017

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