It’s a date

My best friend had a date New Year’s Eve.
This isn’t the biggest news in the universe but for our little corner of the world it was a momentous occasion. She’s been in various states of mourning for the past year after her fianc died in a car accident.
It’s been a tough year.
I will never know, hopefully, what she has been through.
I live next door so likely the proximity gave me a closer look into her journey through healing than a normal best friend would witness. In the first few months I felt helpless. There wasn’t anything I could do to take away the pain. It seemed like she just had one tape to play and it circled around and around every day.
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She needed to talk a lot about what she was feeling, but it was frustrating because it seemed like the thoughts were always stuck in this repetitive mode, like one of those hip-hop bands that keeps sliding the record back and forth and back again.
Adding to the uncomfortableness, I was in the beginning of a happy relationship and our doorways are about 15 feet from one another. I had this sense of guilt for being happy.
At the beginning of her mourning, I would purposely not hug Tommy in front of her. I thought about how painful it must be to watch the two of us at mundane domestic tasks, like unloading the groceries or having him check the oil in the car.
People at the beginning of a relationship can be fairly obnoxious, always petting and giving each other goo-goo eyes. That would be painful to witness after losing someone with whom you shared that same sense of ga-ga.
After a few months, I found myself really frustrated. I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t anything I could do or say that would lift the blanket that kept her in darkness. At some point one of my advisers must have told me that only time would heal.
So Tommy and I decided to concentrate on Leif, her 9-year-old son. The only thing that made me feel productive in helping her was to provide an open door. Her son could come over and play a card game or get a popsicle when mom was sad. Sometimes she’d come over and sit on the couch and watch us play. She would sometimes join us and sort of rock back and forth on the couch in a numb state. But that was better than sitting behind the closed curtains, alone.
It got pretty bad after a while and I was frustrated. I talked to a grief counselor and learned that the most important thing was that I just be there to listen. It was normal for her to need to be repetitive, as if saying the same thing over and over again would disperse those feeling of loss, somehow dislodge those gasps of broken air that got stuck in her stomach.
We concentrated on the 9-year-old and waited.
Sadness is a strange thing. When you look around the world each day, there are so many things from which to find happiness.
Sure, you get pissed off when a driver cuts you off on Mangrove, or there is a leak in your water heater. But if you open your eyes when you’re driving down the Esplanade in fall, you can’t help but smile when you see the colors of burnt orange and yellow.
But the blanket of sadness is like turning your television from color to black-and-white.
The grief counselor I spoke with said I should expect my best friend’s sadness to last at least a year. She said that was about normal for most folks.
This was sort of a relief for me, because I had something with which to gauge my patience. When I knew it would likely last about a year, I could not feel like I was a bad friend for not having some secret formula to make her feel better.
Seasons changed.
Tommy and I continued.
He changed the oil in the car and mowed the lawn. We had my best friend and her son over for barbecues and sometimes she would feel in the mood to make a nice dinner and invite us over. She would light candles and make the place homey. I knew she was lavishing us with the graciousness she wished she had to lavish on a man.
Time passed.
This weekend she had a date.
We’ve been friends since high school so I remember her having dates before. She was nervous about what to wear, of course, and came over several times to be reassured that she looked fantabulous. We were giddy discussing whether she should wear earrings. She was instructed not to eat because she was going to have such fabulous food that she shouldn’t waste her appetite on a piece of toast.
We talked on the phone several times while she was getting ready. She called when her date said he was going to be 10 minutes late.
“That was a good sign, right, that he called and said he was going to be 10 minutes late?”
“Yes, that was a good sign he called to tell you that.”
“Do you have that feeling like you have to pee every 10 minutes because you’re nervous,” I asked.
“Yes. I remember you always had that before you had a date,” she said.
I couldn’t help but hold my breath through those 10 minutes. When her date arrived, I opened the door two inches to peer out, watching him come to her door. She walked out looking fantastic. I think she had followed my advice and put nail polish on her toes.
I nodded as he opened the door to his truck, and Tommy and I hugged each other like proud parents.

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