Harry wrote me three weeks ago.
I’m in the hospital. Don’t worry. All is fine.
What is wrong? I wrote back. There was no reply
I wrote him the following week. Are you OK?
Still no reply.
Finally, I called. Harry answered, “Hello?”
“Harry, the last time you wrote me you said you were in the hospital. I’ve written you twice since and still no reply. I’m calling now to find out when the services are.”
He laughed. “Sorry about that.”
Harry and I have been friends for nearly 8 years. We met in a photography intensive summer class. For a week we sat at computers side by side and after the course was completed we had limited knowledge of Photoshop techniques and the beginning of a friendship. I’m not sure when I met Paula, his wife, but we three hit it off. I see them about once a year and wish it could be more. It’s my fault we don’t. I can’t keep track of time and months drift into years. This time I said, “Let’s just get together.” We did last Friday in their home in Brooklyn. The photos above are of his yard.
Harry is an original inhabitant of Brooklyn. Home grown would describe him best. He’s 84, born and raised in Park Slope. He had a hardware store there and jokes that he has sold the tools that were used to rip the Brownstones apart and then years later sold the tools needed to put the Brownstones back together again. He has done well with the changing tastes of Park Slope.
I don’t know what makes a friendship become close. I have over 100 friends on Facebook and only a few actually know what battles I have had to fight. In my “real life” I have about 12 friends. They don’t always “like” everything I do but they are the ones who are always there cheering me on. Harry and Paula I count in the twelve. When it was decided I needed a mastectomy, I don’t know what made me tell Harry. By then, I had already told about 8 people and two simply walked away from the conversation, me and my problem. We never spoke again. I was in shock. I didn’t know nor could I dream that people could be so callous. That the word cancer would evoke such a reaction in people I considered friends. My mother was dying and I was pulling together a rough contingency plan as to what to do with my own care. Harry called in the midst of this for our yearly get together. I don’t even remember how I told him. Next thing I know, Paula is on the phone and she is giving me days to sit by my side after the operation. It was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. I wasn’t sure what I faced but I knew I would need help. She was there without my even asking. I learned later that Paula had a mastectomy years ago. This knowledge gave me strength. There is life beyond the moment of diagnosis. She also told me that she lost friends too while going through her own bout. She said, “It just happens, don’t take it personally.”
These days are our conversations are a fluid mix of our pasts and triumphs of the moment. Good food is always at the center and laughter our constant. I really must make a point to see them more but should they need me tomorrow. I would be there.