Friday, January 15, 2010

January 16

If she had lived, Karen Gorini would have turned seventy tomorrow. For all of our fifty-seven years of friendship, turning over the calendar page to January 16 meant Karen had arrived at our next shared age.

When we were in junior high and high school, I was envious of her chronological step-up, which occurred seven whole weeks before mine. She reached all the youthful milestones first: teenager, sweet sixteen, eighteen and grown-up, twenty and no-longer-a-teenager, and finally, voting and legal drinking age. She wasn’t enough older to lord it over me; she was just enough older to make me proud—excited to catch up soon.

When she turned thirty and forty with dignity and pride, my envy changed to admiration. As we progressed through the mature milestones, my admiration looped around into relief. Fifty, sixty, sixty-five. Whew! If she could make it, so could I. She made my own aging feel safe. It was as if she jumped onto the next stone in the river (Look, Sallie, I didn’t even get my feet wet!) for the sole purpose of empowering me to make the same leap.

Now Karen is in a place I’m in no hurry to be. I’m perfectly content to trail behind indefinitely. I do not feel relief or admiration that she’s reached the final milestone of our shared chronology. Although I miss her terribly, I’d be glad not to catch up for twenty years. For the first time in nearly six decades, I won’t be feeling any excitement or delight contemplating my dear friend’s special day.

Yet she still lends me moral support almost on a daily basis. If I listen, I can hear her voice affirming the good things I’m trying to accomplish. It’s as if she’s cheerleading for me as I continue living. And remembering the way she lived her last two years on earth will continue to inspire me as long as I have one more breath to draw. She was a wonderful friend while she lived and an unwitting mentor even in death.

Rest in peace, dear heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Sallie. I too can still hear my mom and her advice, still mentoring me, calming me, and guiding me. I miss her so much, but she still feels very close to me. Great photo of mom, too! - Nick