Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Hard Act to Follow

Oh My God, this rambles...
Last night, best friend Louisiana called. She was crying so hard, I could barely understand her. This in itself is alarming--best friend LA does not cry often. Not for herself, anyway. She cries for her friends but treats her own problems with this brusque, brisk, get-over it attitude. So, I was scared but managed to make soothing noises until she could talk.

Her mom, who has diabetes, suffered a stroke, and had a dangerous blockage to a major artery, has Level/Stage Four cirrhosis of the liver. They have to go Monday to talk to her doctor. And best friend is worried that the prognosis will be unbearably dismal, that her mom will be given some sort of "time limit," in her words. "I just can't go. I just can't hear that," she sobbed over and over. To which all the inept, insufficient Elle could say was "You can go. You know how strong you are. She'll need you. I'll be home, too."

What could I say? This woman is my rock. We have been best friends since I was four and she was five. We're the two oldest and possibly tightest members of our pentagon--my group of Louisiana friends that includes her, my sister, my cousin T, my cousin J, and me. She has the most amazing knack for telling me how it is--whether I want to hear it or not--and still making me feel like I'm something special. Last year, when I began crying uncontrollably at the rehearsal for my parent's 35th wedding anniversary luau, she grabbed my face and said "What is it? You know I'm going to fix it for you." This year, when I started sleeping in my closet (because I needed the darkness), turning off the ringers on my phones, and readied myself to wallow in misery, she kept calling, kept fussing, kept loving. When I wailed, "What's wrong with me?" she snapped back, "Nothing, he's an insecure idiot." When I cried, "I'm never going toget this degree, never going to write this thing," she said, "Shut up and stop being lazy."

You see, she has spent almost 27 years saying the right thing at the right time to me. She has spent 27 years helping me fight my battles and "fixing" things for me. She's the type who can assure me in one breath that we're classy, smart, and above petty squabbles and in the next, threaten to handily kick the ass of anyone who even looks at me wrong. She is counselor, advocate, reality check, and friend rolled in one great package. In all these years, we've had two major arguments, many small disagreements, and lots of attitude. But always, always there's the bond, the love, the sisterhood--possible in part because she knows all my neuroses and loves me anyway.

And I am worried. In a general sense, because T's father (my uncle) died of complications from diabetes in 2002. J's father died 2 weeks ago. My own father seems to be having a lot of bad days now that the dialysis has begun. All of them are/were in their 50s. 50s! So I am worried in a large sense that health care and information for black people really is substandard and when we do get the info, we disregard it. J's father (and mine) continued to smoke. T's father refused to take his hypertension and diabetes meds which led to stroke and blindness and his spending his 40s in a nursing home. And even though we see this, live this, despair of this--the smallest member of the pentagon is J at a size 14. Not that large necessarily means unhealthy, but we are a mostly sedentary bunch. We get together and eat and go to movies and eat and talk and eat and plan outings and events and eat. I have no illusions we will ever be size 2s or even 8s--the four of us who are kin have large mamas, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, etc--but I do want us to be healthier.

But what I am worried about most immediately is that I will fail best friend LA in this hour of need. I do not have the words she has. I am the queen of sympathetic silences, handholding, and backrubbing. I don't think I've ever "fixed" one thing for her. Because she's so self-confident, I've never had to reassure her of her worth. The more I think about it, I'm scared she's going to evaluate this friendship one day and worry that one of us is giving more--I'm infinitely more needy than she is. But there are three things that I do for her, three things that may serve me well at this time. I make her laugh. And I love to hear her laugh while she chokes out, "Oh my God, Elle, you are going straight to hell for that." I listen and I hear her, even when I don't agree. And, I'm her "crying place," where she comes in those rare moments that it all gets to her. Like last night. Like I fear Monday will be.

Three little things that I'm hoping will be enough.


ginviren said...

I'm very sorry to hear this elle. And it always seems that there's nothing right to say. But since y'all are such good friends, I bet if you're just *you*, that will be enough to help her along.

Anyway, I hope they get some kind of good news.

RageyOne said...

"Sympathetic silences, handholding, and backrubbing..." - I think those are good. That may be just what your friend needs. I'm sure that given the situation and the time you will do the right thing and it will comfort your friend. Sometimes just being there is all it takes.

Sending prayers and hugs your way.


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