Old friends are the golden thread

 

Last updated 4/12/2022 at Noon



The summer I graduated from college, 1966, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding in Portland. We met as freshmen in high school, having many classes together and turning out our freshman spring for the high school tennis team as doubles partners. Karen was the better player, but together we were a pretty powerful duo, making it to the state tournament our junior year.

But I digress, just like when the two of us are together talking. As Karen’s attendants helped her change in preparation for her leaving the reception with her new husband, I felt great sadness, tears betraying me on this, Karen’s happy day. I was sure I was losing her to married life, which included a move to Southern California.

What I didn’t know then was that true, meaningful friendships built on trust and respect can grow deeper and richer over time. Fifty-six years later we are still best friends, both having weathered the triumphs and vicissitudes of life, the sweetness and the pain of this human experience, and the joys and struggles of married life and motherhood.

As I watched Karen descend the curving staircase in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel on the way to her new life, I remember thinking she had arrived at the beginning of her future adult life. I was single, part of the National Teacher Corps program, looking at an unknown future. I felt left behind by my “good bud.”

Several years later, I did marry, had a baby, got divorced, married again to become instant stepmother to four children, and gave birth to my second son. From 1966 to 1985, Karen and I stayed in touch, but barely. Our families filled our days and required our attention and energy. A few times we were able to spend several hours or days together with short visits. By then, Karen and her family were living in Spokane and my first husband’s job had taken us to Seattle, where I would spend the next 33 years.

With the end of my second marriage, Karen’s and my friendship returned to a level reminiscent of our early years. I came to Sisters to visit her several times after she and Joe built their beautiful home on a ridge with a magnificent view of the mountains.

Ever since my childhood summers spent in Camp Sherman, I had always wanted to live in Sisters. In 2004 — I made that dream a reality, and the icing on the cake? Karen lived 10 minutes away. Her husband could never figure out what we could possibly have left to talk about, but the well has never run dry. We joined the Sisters Garden Club together. We took the OSU Extension Office Master Gardeners classes together. We didn’t play tennis together, both having had shoulder surgery for torn rotator cuffs.

About eight years ago, Karen and Joe decided to sell their too-big house and acreage and move away to be closer to a son and his family. My heart was broken. Again, I was losing my best friend, the sister I never had.

But the bonds of our friendship are strong and resilient. Phone calls, emails, and texts keep us linked. I have visited her once in her new home and she just spent three days/night with me here in Sisters.

We talked and laughed nonstop. And I came to the realization that spending time with my dearest, long-time friend was the very best therapy I could have ever hoped for. Coming out of two years of COVID doldrums, being with Karen reminded me who I am and of what I am capable. She was able to shine a light in my darkness.

Being totally myself, able to share everything – the good, the bad, the ugly – is a healing, liberating experience with lasting benefits. Karen probably knows me better than anyone else on earth. We are each other’s listener, secret holder, dream catcher, and unflagging supporter.

We became companions on this life journey during the innocence of our youth. As we approach our 78th birthdays this summer, we are still companions in the winter of our lives, each acting as a bookend on our span of time together.

Old friends provide the mirror with which we see ourselves. Treasure them and nourish those relationships. They are the pure gold thread that runs through our lives.

 

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