I've decided to write about my very special friends, to honor them. If you find that you do not appear in this series, don't take it the wrong way. It probably means that you are my "special" friend. Live with it. And count yourself lucky not to appear on these pages.
Jane with Hazel and Eleanor at Mama's grave
I'm going to start with Jane, who I find it hard to describe as my friend. Jane was my mother's best friend. Of course, she is my friend, too, but with that whole generation gap/mother figure complication thrown in. There are lines I would never cross with Jane. I won't drunk dial her, for example.
Jane loves to tell people about the first time she saw me. I was three years old, lumbering along behind my father at the neighborhood baseball field, walking just like him. This is not a compliment. My father walks like an ape and, yes, so do I. Jane knows that my father and I have more in common than just a knuckle-walk; this is her way of letting on that she's always known it. And loved me in spite of it, or maybe even for it.
Jane knows my mother struggled to understand me. I've never asked how much. Jane probably knows more than I need to know. What did Mama really think about me, Jane? Nope, can't go there, either. It's cool. Jane knew that my mother loved me like a mother should and for no other reason than that, she loves me, too.
When I was a kid, Jane knew I liked plums in any form and she provided plenty of them to me from her plentiful plum trees. She let me climb those trees, even after I broke my arm falling from our frontyard maple and especially after a tornado took out our own two plum trees. Our backyard was then left bare except for a weeping willow. For a kid whose parents believed in corporal punishment, a weeping willow is just a horror show from nature. Mama used to make me go select her switch for her, to be used on me! I'm not sure, but I don't think Jane used corporal punishment. Ahead of her time, that Jane.
Jane had a houseful of kids and a revolving door of neighbors, friends, and animals. Her home was a hive! Jane and her family had passions and hobbies, like sewing, music, Chevy Corvairs, and airplanes. Jane could sew you a nice suit from a burlap sack. Several in her family could've built you an airplane from scratch. Jane loaned me her John Denver 8-tracks. If you don't think that was a favor, go back and listen to "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Beautiful music.
Jane was an excellent influence for a kid like me. In contrast to Mama, Jane had a more relaxed attitude about what was proper and okay for a little girl to do. Like the knuckle-walk. My mother would have paid an orthopedic surgeon a million dollars to rid me of the knuckle-walk. Jane knows the knuckle-walk is me. How could I possibly change it?
Jane, and her children, and my mother, and I all shared then and continue to share, a very fundamental belief: life can be shitty, so as often as you can, look at the absurdity of it and laugh. Laugh hard.
Jane (and her daughters) were there with me when my mother died. Jane knows about the things I saw that day that I won't ever tell anyone. And she endured that with me only a short year after her oldest son, Rob, died of glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Rob was 48. How shitty is that?
Today, Jane and I are still laughing. God, it helps to have friends.
If you have spare change, and a friend like Jane, consider giving to the American Brain Tumor Association, or the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research, at www.virtualtrials.com. Both sites make giving very easy for you and both organizations provide invaluable support to the patients and families whose lives have been affected by brain tumors of all kinds.