It was said long before I had any health issues. My friend Linda had cut or burned her hand badly and her doctor gave her painkillers. Her husband, Chuck, had a bit of an addiction problem and swallowed all of them while she wasn’t looking. She called me in a fit of tears and in her despair said, “My life is so bad, yours looks good.” The insult pierced my ego but she was in such a state that I didn’t bother to point it out. Instead, I talked her off the ledge.
Linda and I had gone to college together and our friendship spanned over 20 years. It was during my mother’s illness that it fizzled out. I was under a great deal of stress determining my mother’s care and the friendship buckled under the strain. I was in shock as I had been by her side when her brother died of AIDS. Back then, she gave up her life to sleep on a cot next to her brother’s bed as the disease ravaged his ability to see, hear, speak and walk. Mike’s world closed in around him and it was Linda who held his hand throughout the months leading up to his death to let him know he wasn’t alone. I would visit with them in the hospital and bring her trinkets and news of the world outside. I had thought she would help me if the time ever came. I was wrong.
It was during my mother’s 3rd or 4th operation that the finale snap came. The proverbial straw had to do with watching American Idol and the serving of cheese. Linda was in town with her niece and she wanted to watch the show, use my phone and keep to the Atkins diet. These demands now seemingly mild were more than I could bear. My Dad was in the hospital at the same time as my mother and traveling between the two left little energy for entertaining. We didn’t have a huge fight. I just said, “No Linda, I can’t. Maybe you should watch American Idol in your hotel room.” We were talking on the phone and that would be our last conversation for at least a year. I didn’t know it then and missed her and voiced it to my own family members. “ I can’t believe she hasn’t called to see how all the operations went.”
It was my mother waking from one of her morphine driven naps who finally said, “Mae, I think you’ve confused knowing someone a long time with friendship. It isn’t the same.” She closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep while I sat wide eyed in thought. She was right. My mother made the most insightful statements while under the influence of Morphine.
I’ve spoken to Linda since but there is no spark for a resumed friendship. Chuck, hit by a truck while leaving a Tag Sale, died in her arms. That was just days after my lumpectomy and a few months before my mastectomy. We both needed time to deal with our own catastrophes and eventually just drifted apart. Her statement stayed though and has been a source of measurement and at times laughter. Whenever Vita or my sisters and I have a really bad day we’ll call each other. It was Vita who started it, “How bad is your day? Wait, does my life look good?” or, “Exactly how good does my life look?” It is very funny. You see, I’ve always liked my life best of all. Sure, there are changes I’d like to make but what I’ve created fits. I think it’s also safe to assume, you like your own life too.