Here’s a guest post by my old friend Barbie Rodriguez, written after the recent loss of her friend. This one brought it home for me on various levels. I hope it touches you as well.
My friend is Home. I have been trying to write this for a few days now. Today is the 4th of July, later I will watch the fireworks with my neighbors and their kids, we’ll munch on hot dogs and potato salad and oooh and aaahhhh. But before I join them, I have to finish writing this post. So, here goes.
Never ever, I have said this before, never ever let me put anything away for you. Because it will be safe, you just will never see it again. I have been going through boxes and albums looking for pictures taken a long time ago, of us three (those being Fairy GodMother Ruby, Fairy GodMother Geo and me) one day we went to lunch at the Olive Garden. It was at one of those Olive Garden lunches that Geo surprised me with a beautiful amethyst bracelet she had made for me for my birthday. She worked these tiny little amethyst butterflies into an absolutely beautiful bracelet, weaving them into what at first sight look like flowers, but when you look closely at them, you realize they are tiny butterflies. I have several bracelets made by her, I wear at least one of them every day. Anyway, we took pictures that day, but I have not found them. Somehow I know Gina (I mostly called her Geo, but she said her friends called her Gina, so I started calling her Gina Bella) is looking on from Heaven, smiling and going “Babydoll, WHERE did you put those pictures?” Babydoll, she called me babydoll, not sweetie like I said when speaking about her to her kids at the memorial service. I knew that didn’t sound quite right. Then it came to me in the middle of the night. Babydoll. I started writing this Monday night, when I got home, after I got the news. I deleted everything because it was just too stream of consciousness, mixed up with why, mixed up with oh, I am so going to miss her, mixed up with more why, why, why. Why do twerps live forever and lovely people are called Home it seems way too early. I’m thinking the Father wants the lovely people, the twerps not so much, so He has them live longer to see if they will stop being twerps. A lot of them don’t. My ramblings were a hodge-podge of emotion. They still are.
My sweet friend, older sister I always wanted, mentor, cheerleader is gone. I know she’s gone “home to glory” as someone says in one of the Mitford books. I know she is free from pain. She is free to dance. She is Home. She is Home. Straight to Heaven, that one. I’m pretty sure her wings are varying shades of purple and beautiful butterflies follow her all around Heaven as she explores her new Home. My friend has gone Home. Tried to write again on Wednesday, the 3rd, when I got back from the memorial service, but I was so tired. Two nights of sleeping only a few hours will do that to you, I guess. I conked out early in the evening, right after feeding the kits. Sat down to watch a movie, next thing I knew it was 2:00 a.m. and I had a crick in my neck. So, I grabbed Smokey Noelle and went to bed.
My lovely boss was kind enough to allow me to take Wednesday off to attend the memorial service. Making this actually a five-day weekend. Normally this would be reason for celebrating, five days off from work. But, really, although the 4th of July is one of my all-time favorite holidays, I am not much in the mood for celebrating. My friend went Home and although I know there really is no reason for sadness, she is free once again, free from pain, free to be, free to … fly. Still, I am sad. Because even though we had drifted apart and she had moved away, we had not spoken in a few years, I still knew she was there. And thought maybe someday one of us would call the other and it would be as if no time had passed. I sure am going to miss her. Even though I know she is, at long last, Home. She can move around free of pain, she can breathe freely, she can create once more, she can sleep. She can dance again. Some years ago I bought two Hallmark Christmas ornaments of a ballerina, one was for her and one was for me, twin dancers I told her and for some reason that gave us the giggles. Which happened a lot with us.
The memorial service was quite moving. Family, friends. Hugs were exchanged, laughter and tears mixed freely. I was (and am) blessed to have gone with my Fabulous Fairy GodMother, Ms. Ruby. She makes an excellent co-pilot, reading directions and providing fruit, Jamaican patties and coconut water. More on that later. We left early in the morning, she drove to my place and left her car in my parking space (reserving it, as it were). Caffeine was in order for me, I was definitely muzzy-headed, so we drove through a McDonald’s drive-thru where I got the biggest hot caramel mocha latte they have. Can’t stand the cold coffee thing in the morning. I need my hot java! Filled up the gas tank and we were off. Someone needs to talk to MapQuest. The directions provided were excellent. Got us to the little town we were headed to. Getting to the actual memorial service was a whole different story. It took three phone calls to finally get there. We were late by 5 minutes and I kept thinking “Oh, sure, we’re going to get there late and they will say it’s the Cuban’s fault.”
Her granddaughters were there. Last time I saw them, they were these beautiful little girls. One very serious and studious, the other one quite the character. Both so sweet and funny and endearing. Now they are beautiful young ladies. Their brother, who I remember quite well, especially a hair cutting incident which makes me laugh every time I think of it, was not there. He chose to stay home, which I can so understand. Her grandchildren are going to miss her oh, so very, very much. She was one special grandmom. The children’s mother is a blonde carbon copy of her mom. I saw my friend in her daughter, in her granddaughters, in her son and his wife (she makes excellent scones). I felt her sweet and gentle presence all around us, as we told stories and laughed, cried. Sometimes at the same time. Ruby and I had made plans to go visit this weekend, on Saturday. Somehow I knew she would leave us before then. Instead, we drove up Wednesday for her memorial service. Her family kindly invited us to join them for lunch afterwards. They were all getting together at my friend’s and her husband’s favorite Chinese restaurant. However, I still have crowding issues, so we said our good-byes and headed home.
It rained off and on. My most excellent co-pilot provided me with fresh fruit, cantaloupe and cherries, yum! We pulled off the road at a little rest area after a while. It had stopped raining, we put the windows down, enjoyed a nice breeze. The rest area had lots of trees and there were birds all about. We tossed them bits of coco bread while we feasted on Jamaican patties, coco bread and coconut water. It was very peaceful, green, soothing. We spoke about her, all three of us worked together at one point in our lives. Birds started flying in, I threw little pieces of bread out the window and they gobbled them right up. Until these three big vultures flew in and started horning in on the bread. I told Ruby, “Maybe they were attorneys in a former life!” and we laughed ourselves silly, because every year at the same time vultures descend on the courthouse downtown and people joke that they were attorneys in a former life come back to visit their old stomping grounds. We used to watch them from our office when we worked together. We laughed a lot at that office, worked hard, but also laughed a lot.
Even though I miss her, always have, always will, I know she is Home and it is good. She was such a presence in my life. From the minute we met, something just clicked, as if we had known each other always. She was best friend, older sister, mother, confidante, wise counsel, all rolled up into one. She was funny, bright, infinitely kind. I never knew her to say an unkind word about anyone, not even those who were unkind to her or rude. Once a co-worker (who had the grace and manners of a mad bull in a china shop) made a rather rude remark, we were going to the ladies’ room and this person was walking behind us and said “I don’t know how those teeny little feet can support those big butts!” Geo was a bit sensitive about her weight (we are both rather rotund) and I knew that remark hurt her. I whipped around, responding “Well, not all of us can have water skis for feet like YOU do!” Geo told me “I can’t believe you said that to her, that was mean!” Maybe I shouldn’t have, but that person really bugged me. I told her, listen, if she can’t take it, she shouldn’t dish it out. This person knew knew how sensitive Geo was and still she made that crack (and others). She’s lucky I didn’t kick her in her bony shins.
Whenever we spoke about this particular co-worker of ours, who I have always thought must have been nursed on lemons instead of mother’s milk, my friend would always say “Why is she so mean?” My personal opinion was that this person detested us because even though, yes, we were quite round, we were cute and feminine and, most of all, happy. People liked us. No matter how round we got, we were still cute because we were so short. Another crack she made one time was that we looked like a double zero when standing next to each other. I said better a double zero physically than in personality. That did not go over well. (And no, I did not hold my tongue. People like that enjoy bullying others and I just don’t cotton to bullies.) And people still liked us. No one liked her because she had such a sour attitude and always looked at you like she had just bitten into a really, really, really sour lemon. She would always critique whatever we had ordered for dinner. This really bugged Gina. So, I took pains to bug Ms. Sucked on Sour Lemons. I decoupaged photos of all sorts of delicious treats onto my document stand, so that whenever this person looked over to my desk, she was confronted by this plethora of treats. I wanted to decoupage the words “Bite Me” but thought it’d be a little much. Darn. Geo, however, was unfailingly nice and kind to her. Because she just was that nice. Me, not so much.
You know how I sometimes say a LOT of those who proclaim to be Christians are the farthest thing from being Christian? Well, Gina was the true embodiment of being Christian. She wasn’t preachy and she wasn’t holier than thou. She just was kind and sweet and loving. Even to the jackasses in her life. I am still working on that aspect of my personality. Really, really, really try to “do unto others.” But sometimes it is darn difficult and other times I am just plain mean to the twerps of the world. Even worse, I actually enjoy it. Bad, bad, bad Glitterina! But I think the Father understands.
Geo is the reason I started drawing after my parents’ death. She saw me doodling one afternoon and said “Oh, babydoll, you are good!” Then she asked me to do some bookmarks and cards for her grandchildren. She wanted to pay me for my efforts, I would not take her money. So, the first time we went to Michael’s, she paid for all my supplies. That was our idea of fun, going to Michael’s and then to lunch at either The Olive Garden or The Cracker Barrel. Yep, we were wild women. I always pictured her as a little tiny purple-winged fairy buzzing around my head, giving me ideas, inspiring and encouraging me to create, create, create! She introduced me to the Mitford series by Jan Karon, giving me my first book, Shepherds Abiding, which in turn led to my actually reading the Bible because Father Tim quotes it so much. Joyfully. He finds joy and comfort in his faith. Wow, I just had an “Aha!” moment. Joy and comfort in faith, something my parents had, my grandparents as well. I did too at one time, then I lost it. Gina helped me find it again.
She loved her family and her friends. Holidays and birthdays. She believed Valentine’s Day was for friends and family, not just for romantic couples. She loved the color purple, birds and butterflies. She believed in imagination. She believed people were good. She had a deep, unshakeable belief in God. We could talk about anything and everything under the sun. We would laugh over the silliest things. Once I stopped at The Cracker Barrel to pick up dinner. She loved their sugar-free apple pie. We couldn’t figure out what a white sauce they included was. We were really quite puzzled about it. We poked at it with a spoon. It was awful thick. First we thought it was gravy for the biscuits, but it didn’t taste like gravy, we tasted it again … and figured out it was melted ice cream for the pie. The mystery dish was ice cream! We laughed ourselves silly over that. We always laughed. That is what I remember the most about our visits. Laughter, hugs, wonderful intelligent conversations.
Her home was my refuge during a very turbulent time in my life. When it was cold, she would make this wonderful soup and call me to go get some. She would always send me home with a CARE package. Once I was over at her house for dinner, her husband had made this wonderful pork roast and she had made one of her amazing salads. I said “Oh, we’re not having Greek salad?” She went to the fridge and grabbed some feta cheese, added it to my salad plate and said “There! Now it’s Greek!” I still laugh when I remember that. How do you make Greek salad? Put some feta cheese on it!
I’d pull in to our office parking lot and look for her car. She made going to work fun. When she retired, it was no longer fun to go to the office. We talked almost every day, sometimes more than once. If it was raining when I left work, she would call and say “I’m praying you home, babydoll!” Once we were at Michael’s and I saw this dragon stamp, I’ve always had a thing for dragons, but I put it back because it was over my budget and I already had enough stuff in my basket. When we got to the car, she pulled the dragon stamp out and said “Here you go, make something pretty with it!” I told her “That is the dragon I want to get tattooed around my ankle for my 60th birthday!” Well, she gave me this look, you know the “Mom” look? Then she said, “Okay, babydoll, whatever you say.” Another time I remarked how I had always wanted to do a “Santa” tree, a Christmas tree with only Santa Claus decorations. That year as the holidays approached, she called me one day inviting me to lunch on the weekend. When I got to her home, there was this beautiful Christmas box with a big gold French-ribbon bow on it. Inside was a collection of Santa Claus ornaments. She had gone to the Cracker Barrel and bought one of each and every Santa Claus ornament they had. I wanted to cry. She really LISTENED. And she really cared. She took time for you. She had a bazillion and one health issues, yet never complained. I have always remembered that kind gesture. One of many.
We shared so much laughter. Once I was sitting in her Florida room, it looked out onto a lake and the garden, lots of lovely trees, birdfeeders, she loved birds and butterflies. So, I’m sitting there, her husband was outside grilling something for dinner, she was in the kitchen getting a salad together, we’re talking and I’m looking outside and see this rather odd-looking bird at one of the birdfeeders. Wasn’t wearing my contacts, had taken my glasses off. Something about this bird really caught my eye and I tell her “Wow, there’s a really weird bird at the birdfeeder!” She comes on over, starts laughing, opens the window and starts calling her husband and pointing at the bird. Then she goes “Babydoll, put on your glasses. Your ‘bird’ has a tail!” It was a rat! I knew that bird looked weird. There was this rat munching out at the birdfeeder, calm as you please! For a while afterwards, every time we talked on the phone she’d go, “Seen any birds lately?” We’d laugh like silly loons. If I were to write a book about our friendship, I would title it “Hugs, Soup, Faith and Laughter.” Oh, my, I do so miss her.
We had a falling-out years ago, over something so not important. A difference of opinion. We never spoke again after that. Sometimes I would pick up the phone to call and say “Look, this is silly.” But I never did. Now I wish I had. Too late. But I have so many, many good memories. Of laughter and tears, good books shared, hugs and soup, conversations about anything and everything under the sun. Comfortable silences. She was bright, funny, witty, kind, so, so kind. Her hugs were home. I know we will see each other again. One day. My friend is Home. When I got the phone call, the first thing that went through my mind was, she’s Home. My friend is Home.
Well, it is thunder-booming. Hanging out with Fairy Godmother Stephi, Queen of the Macedonian Fairy Tribe tomorrow. Until next time, be blessed, be safe, be kind to one another. Have faith. Give thanks for your many blessings. Your families, your friends, sometimes they are one and the same. One time when I was having some health issues, she called me asking “You do believe, right? You believe in Heaven? You are saved? Because I refuse to think of me being there looking for you and not finding you!” I assured her we would find each other in Heaven. My friend is Home and one day we will find each other in Heaven. My friend is Home. Always on my mind, forever in my heart.