Like a stubborn child and reaching for the book of matches after being warned not to, I can almost always reach back into the cluttered recesses of my brain where Love and Loss is stored and blow flame back into some diminished coal of pain or longing, but I generally don’t. Therapy, time, and experience teach it is far better to recall the blessings and let go the curses.
I’m sure it’s because we’ve moved and our life is as yet unsettled, and because today is his birthday, that I’m missing my friend Jeff more than usual.
It’s impossible for me to not wonder what Jeff would say about Donald Trump’s candidacy, the virtual take-over by Guy Fieri of the Food Network channel, or the trend toward pick- stitching on men’s suits. This is not garden-variety wondering, like when I wonder what would really happen were a witch to send one back to the 16th century, a la Bewitched. No, this is seriously wanting Jeff’s opinion. Really wanting to talk to him about world and national events and especially my day to day life.
Sometimes I can imagine our conversations:
Me: It’s National Pots du Creme day; have you ever made Pots du Creme?
Jeff: Of course I have. In cooking school we made one infused with creme de menthe, it was heaven. I’m sure Julia Child has one…. (rustling of books, papers, mild profanity as stuff slides off his table or desk)
Me, needling: I’m sure Guy Fieri probably has one with bacon…
Jeff: He’s a hack! Although I do love his car.
Me: Nevermind, I’ll google…. what do you think of pick-stitching on mens’ suits? It seems to be everywhere suddenly. I’m not convinced.
Jeff: It looks like someone forgot to remove the basting stitches.
Me: It’s meant to be fancy.
Jeff: pppppffffffttttt it’s affected.
I have no unfinished business with Jeff, no real regrets. We were always honest with each other, even when it hurt, but we could always say “Sorry” and move beyond it, still love each other. But I still get emotional recalling the last private conversation we had. Dude, I’m trying hard to live up to your respect. And love.
I guess what I want to say is the usual trite crap we all say about holding your loved ones close, not taking them for granted, making those memories, blah blah blah. But I would add: be present especially in the small, insignificant moments, like these I’m savoring today: going for sushi on Fridays during Lent and assuring each other it was sacrificial; lunch breaks gossiping about the idiots in upper management; his insistence on back country roads when the highway was always, always quicker; hysterical laughter in a parking garage, the laughter only people who know each other extremely well can share. All the times I thought I would die in the inevitable fiery crash of the Van of Terror. There is greatness there, tiny mustard seeds of awesome that have taken root and will sustain me until, well, I guess until we meet again.
Happy Birthday, Jeff. Save me a slice of the German chocolate cake.