There’s a funny thing that happens with friends, I mean real, true, kindred spirit kind of friends – you just assume that they will always be there. It never enters your mind that they will move away. It never occurs to you that you will have a last meal, a last coffee at Starbuck’s or a last adventure with them. Your future will always include their presence. They become such an integral part of your life, it’s as if they were always there and always will be.
This Christmas, the season started as many before it. The cold snap came and the air became crisp. Lights were strung on houses – the ‘Christmas Street’ lit up the entire neighborhood. Shopping, excitement, anticipation. Good times with friends. All the normal, usual stuff. Well maybe not usual because it’s the kind of stuff you (at least me) look forward to all year.
The weather was especially cold that year and it was perfect because it just seemed more like Christmas. My best friend J and I were going off to see a play. The Christmas Carol, as a musical no less. Another friend had a part in the play and we were just going to have fun watching her and then teasing her afterwards.
The play was up in Canyon Country which is about a 30 minute drive from our town. J came and picked me up and off we went. I noticed that J was a little more quiet than usual but really didn’t think much of it, so I sat back and settled in for the drive. Quite casually and out of the blue J said, “I’m moving to Texas, Duckie.”
I was stunned. I knew she liked Texas and all and had been there on business and enjoyed herself but she’d said nothing of moving there. “When?” I asked – pretty sure she was going to say something vague like in a year or two.
“January,” she said looking straight ahead.
It was weird because it felt like all the air was sucked out of me. I just didn’t know what to say. I’m not really sure I said anything. I just sort of collapsed around my grief. It was a mere 4 weeks away. It felt like someone had yanked my arm off or something equally disorienting. I went numb.
I think we talked a little more about it. But just the facts. Where would she work? What made her decide? Where would she live? She’d been made an incredible offer she felt she couldn’t refuse, plus her young son was getting older and she wanted him in a better environment to grow up in. She was going.
I knew there was definitely no talking her out of it. I didn’t try. How could I? I could only hope she’d change her mind, even though I knew she wouldn’t. J isn’t the kind of person who decides casually, I knew she’d given it a lot of thought and weighed the good and bad and her mind was made up.
That terrible ache you feel when you’re trying not to cry crawled around inside me. I tried not to be upset. I didn’t do very well at that. In fact, I did lousy.
The dinner we had with friends before the play was strange and unreal. I just couldn’t think of anything else. I told myself I was being selfish and that I should be happy for her but I was too sad for me.
Christmas went from bright colored and sparkly to gray. I went through the motions but mentally all I did was count off the days til they left. I think I cried just about every day. I kept telling myself I was being ridiculous and that I should grow up and take it like a man – but the girlie girl in me won the battle every time
We spent a lot of time together before she left. We tried like the devil to cram everything in that we could. As many laughs, coffees, jokes, adventures that we possibly could. Eventually, I was able to deal – at least without bawling like a big baby. Because despite my greif I really was happy for her. I knew it was right for her – that good things would come of it. That it was a journey in her life she needed to take and I wasn’t going on this particular road trip with her.
We would write and call – and she had family down here so I would see her again. I knew all of this. But I couldn’t stop missing her. I just couldn’t make myself do that.
Christmas came and went. The time drew near and I did everything I could to avoid thinking about it. And then the final goodbye came. At a restaurant. I met her and her dad and little boy and we had a good time. We chatted and ate chips and drank iced tea as though it was just a normal Tuesday night. But too soon the time came and we stood in front of the restaurant hugging and crying. Then separating.
I walked to my car and couldn’t look back. I didn’t want to have my last view of them driving away. I wanted to keep that image of them standing there smiling and waving.
But life felt emptier at that moment. Less bright. Less colorful. Less adventurous. It just wouldn’t be the same without them. And it wasn’t.
But you know what? As sad as this story might seem and as much as I may have bummed you out by telling it to you – it didn’t destroy me or ruin my life. It just really made me love and appreciate her all the more. Because no matter where your friends go and no matter how far away they may be they never are gone – you always always have them and they always have you. It’s just a little harder to make the commute sometimes.