It's a special day today. My dearest and oldest friend J. is having a birthday.
It's a birthday we weren't sure she would see. This past February J. was given 3 to 4 months to live. Although she has been struggling with cancer for several years, she seemed to be getting better. Things were going well. Then the blow.
I'm still not sure how I feel about doctors giving patients an expiration date. Because that's what it is - a kind of "best before" date. And every single day forward from the date of getting that verdict delivered, J. has to wonder if this is her last sunrise or sunset or time spent at the stable with her horse. But we're talking about people, not a jar of mayonnaise! It's a horrible thing to have hanging over her head.
I understand that there are people who may wish to get their affairs in order, or say goodbye to family or complete their bucket list. But the reality of waking up each morning, knowing that there are only x number of days left in your timeline, must be horrendous. And yes, there are miracles, there are suprises and a doctor does not know an exact date when a person's time is up. But J's been handed her expected date of demise and it makes me very angry.
J. and I met when she was 6 and I was 7. We spent our summers when we were young gathering minnows in a nearby creek, hiking for miles in the country around our homes, and spending every minute together that we could.
As teenagers we sat in my bedroom or on the front porch sharing confidences, giggling over boys and dreaming up all kinds of fanciful adventures. When I was first told that my father was dying (I was 13) I walked to J's house to cry with her and her mother.
In Grade 9 we had a crush on the same boy. He was in Grade 12 and it was unlikely that he even knew who we were but we came up with the crazy idea to invite him to a Sadie Hawkins dance at school. Do you remember those? That was the only time it was okay for a girl to ask a boy out. I have no idea why we ever thought that was a good idea but we did it. We went to the corner store where he worked and asked him to go with both of us to the dance. He accepted (such a nice guy!) and we walked home, super excited. Sadly he came down with the flu right before the dance (wink, wink) so we didn't attend but it took years before we realized that he was just such a decent person he didn't want to reject us outright.
I moved away in Grade 13 and I missed her. She went on to University and I followed one year later. We went to dances and parties together and whispered in corners, hoping that some cute boy would notice us. We discussed politics and writing and the state of the world. We took a week off and hitch-hiked to New York from Toronto. I can hardly believe that we did that but it was the 1960s and a different world.
We even shared boyfriends. She was so pretty she attracted all the good-looking guys, then when she broke up with them, they'd ask me out. So I got to go out with guys who were out of my league! I actually dated her older brother once. And I do mean "once". It was a mistake because he and I never got along, but somehow it seemed like the thing to do once I was in University.
J. was my maid of honour at my first wedding. In those days she was my mentor on clothes to buy, what spoon or fork to use at a fancy restaurant.... everything.
We ended up living quite a distance from each other. J. never married while I married and divorced, then remarried and after my second husband's death I remarried again. We kept in touch though with letters and phone calls and a few personal visits over the years. J. and her wonderful mother who I adored came to see me after my second husband passed away and that visit meant the world to me.
Our lives continued to run in different paths and I felt we had lost our connection but a few years ago we re-connected. It was a wonderful feeling for me to have J. in my life again!
So today I want to wish J. a wonderful birthday. I'll be phoning her later today to share more memories of us together as kids and remind her of some of the crazy antics we got up to. We'll do some laughing because that's what we do together.
As J. always says to me at the end of our phone calls or in her emails ... "Love yah!"