A Friendship Story

I scanned the shelves of the refrigerated case. Fanta. Aquarius. Pineapple juice. But no orange juice.

And then I remembered: I’m in Spain.

I turned to the counter and there it was: a pile of oranges in a square tub atop the now-recognizable-to-me juicer. Every bar/coffee shop in Spain has one, even here in the airport.

The two women in front of me ordered their fresh-squeezed orange juice (and some coffee). I ordered my orange juice (and some coffee). And then the pile of Americans in line behind me caught on.

Oranges descended into the funnel where they were automatically sliced in half and juiced into a waiting silver pitcher.

This is one of the many things I’ll miss about Spain, I thought.

Yes, ten months into our let’s-move-to-Europe adventure, I’m headed back to the US.

But just for a visit. Spain can’t get rid of me that easily. . .

You see, my best friend’s father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last weekend. I didn’t know him very well personally, but he and his wife gave me one of the greatest gifts ever: forty-some-odd years ago they created a baby girl. They raised her to be a loving, funny, confident, strong woman.

Thirty-something years later, I met their daughter. In a restaurant parking lot in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Why a parking lot?

Well, she was the only person to answer my 2007 craigslist ad looking for a roommate. As good single women know to do, we agreed to meet in the daytime in a busy place: the parking lot of the Uno’s Pizzeria.

Within seconds, we knew we were “a match.” We had both grown up in Poughkeepsie, New York, unknown to each other in our younger years. We’d both gone away to college and then moved to Boston, still unknown to each other. We both returned to the Hudson valley—the place our families still called home—and were stunned that craigslist — the online source of roommates, apartments, furniture, and even dates in Boston and major cities around the US—had not really taken hold in our hometown.

It was only after laughing over our shared histories that Dawn revealed her brother and his friend were hiding out in a nearby car—not fully trusting this idea of meeting a roommate online.

Days later, after we signed the lease, the landlord presented us with two keys: one covered with the Boston Red Sox logo and the other emblazoned with the logo of their rivals: the New York Yankees.

Dawn and I looked at the keys. We looked at each other. No self-respecting Red Sox fan would take a Yankees key. And we were both Red Sox fans.

“I’ll give the Yankees key to my dad in case of emergencies,” I said, “and I’ll have him make a copy for me.”

Crisis averted. Friendship begun.

Dawn taught me the joys of a glass of wine in the evening. I taught her that, in my world, big decisions benefitted from pro/con lists — preferably written on poster-sized post-it notes hung on the dining room wall.

We taught each other that just because one of us is in bed when the other gets home doesn’t mean we can’t get out of bed, get dressed up, and go out for drinks because that’s what our friend needs.

We shared stories, friends, laughter, and tears in our two bedroom, three bath townhome in the tiny town of Milton, New York. And two years later, when our roommate relationship ended, we knew our friendship never would.

The death of a parent is something I have never experienced. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go first. But should I lose a parent before I leave this earth, I can only hope to be as strong, loving, and caring as my friend Dawn has been through it all.

She and I continue to learn from each other. I have watched, sadly from a great distance, as she and her family have navigated the world of pancreatic cancer. The world of doctors, chemo, hospitals, and hospice.

Dawn—through it all — didn’t hide the difficult feelings and emotions, yet was always determined to share some positives in every conversation I had with her.

And most admirable? She knew—from the start—that there are many ways people work through these trying times and that she, most of all, was there to support her parents wishes.

Dawn’s father will always hold a special place in her heart. And she will always hold a special place in mine.

Thank you, George and Barbara Zittel, for creating this remarkable woman I am blessed to call my friend.

P.S. I’d give up fresh-squeezed orange juice for life in order to keep her friendship. But let’s just hope it never comes to that.

I didn’t meet my husband online, but I DID meet my maid-of-honor online:)

One Comment Add yours

  1. lisamontanaro says:

    Oh how I love everything about this. I’m tearing up reading it. My beloved mom died of pancreatic cancer so I know what your friend Dawn is going through. I’m sending her strength and thoughts. And my friends were there for me through it all. Love that you are there for Dawn during this difficult time. It’s such a gift. Cherish that friendship, ladies. It’s a thing of beauty!

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