We worked together at first. “Who is this new girl that is talking so much?” I said to myself (and verified with a fellow “veteran” co-worker…both of us with one year of extremely important experience). I mean, doesn’t she know the rules? Will she ever shut-up?
God bless her, my friend Michele. She passed away Nov 13, 2014 at the age of 39 from a stroke and complications from it. Little did I know that my first impression of her talking so much would lead to a deafening silence 18 years later that has left a hole in my soul.
We were never “besties” that you would label someone who you have fun with all the time and are extremely close. But she was one of us. She was one of the gang. She was one of those friends that you become a true adult with fresh out of college. She was one of those friends that you experienced life with. You know, the friends in your group that you keep track of and care for because you shared situations and similar aspects and outlooks on life. Fun parties to commiserate old jobs, celebrate new jobs, new houses, new condos, new boyfriends – and fun just because it’s Groundhog’s day or it was a sucky day at work. You integrate your thoughts and life with this person because they are one of the ones. You integrate them into your thoughts because they are a part of your “root” even as you inevitably separate in life by jobs, relationships, circumstances; things that happen in life organically that force you apart and into your own world. You see each other every few years and it’s great. But you always keep thinking think – Oh, Michele! We should have dinner and catch-up. How we will laugh and make fun of situations over some really nice wine that we both like – feeling the love from ourselves and our husbands, Rick and Christopher, as we reminisce over dinner, debate and share the latest gossip.
How fleeting these thoughts are now – how deeply disturbing that these opportunities are lost but in memory. Life is hard and smacks you in the face when you least expect it, in a way you couldn’t even think of happening. A harsh reminder that forces you to value precious things in your life – family and friends. It hurts. With an aching, hollow feeling that you can’t shake.
I guess we soldier on….but on the good memory side, perhaps I should get on with the carpet story. You see, part of my initial introduction to Michele was her driving me to some event that we were working. The years fog what the event was, but what I vividly remember is that her car had this well cleaned, combed and vacuumed (but a little ragged at the same time)….dashboard carpet. Like carpet all over the top part of the dash above all the dials. I got in the car and was amazed. I was transfixed. What *IS* this?! Dashboard carpet?! It was obviously purposeful and an item you could buy – it was molded to fit her car’s dash. I’d never seen that before – ever. And in your young-mind internal world what you haven’t seen is, well, just weird! When I incredulously mentioned the fact I thought this was, well, nothing I had ever seen before she replied authoritatively and adamantly (as she petted it for effect) “Yes, I love it! Don’t make fun of my carpet!”
And that’s when I knew I had to get to know this person. She’s gonna be a friend. It’s the small things that can sometimes bring people together, and I was just tickled pink that this “eccentricity” could happen (Oh, how with age we can laugh at ourselves – the good thing in growing older). In the end it was a tiny personal revelation for me of sorts. Why *NOT* dashboard carpet? What’s the big deal? And that’s where it all began. When I knew Michele was one of us. Because she was just damn cool and fun . A proud supporter of dashboard carpet. The rest just flowed through life as friendships do. Though, that didn’t keep me from teasing her for years and years about it. It was our thing.
One of us is now gone. And that sucks.
I miss and love you, Michele.