When we strike up a friendship in our teens, we don’t know that it has the potential to last the rest of our lives. At present, my oldest friend and I have been friends for 52 years. She approached me one day and started a conversation. I was so surprised, because no one wanted to be my friend, due to me having a nickname, Little Monster, in school.
Every day, people ran past me screaming that name and boys teased other boys that I was their girlfriend. So, other girls did not even want to walk with me in the halls, so that they did not chance being taunted as well. Therefore, I never even tried to make friends. Of course, she did not know all of this; she simply wondered why any girl would like being alone.
When she learned that I ran home every day and stayed there to escape being taunted, she was appalled, and I believe she decided that she could change my life for the better by being my friend. She also did not know that I had another secret, and that was that my mother was an alcoholic. I wanted to hide that fact from the world, not wanting to give children another reason to tease me.
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was hiding the very same secret, for her mother was an alcoholic also. Her mother would get inebriated in public, and I would go with her to get her mother and bring her home. So, people in our neighborhood knew the secret, but my friend was so popular in school that the knowledge did not impact her social life. I was the only person that knew the real extent of her pain and embarrassment, for we shared the same shame.
She actually envied me, as my mother drank in private and alone, so no one knew but family. My mother also worked every day, paid for her whiskey herself, and never suffered a hangover that left a mess to be cleaned up, which was amazing considering that Mama drank two or three pints of Very Old Barton bourbon every day.
Our friendship was bizarre to people in school, for she was beautiful, dressed in all the latest fashions, popular among boys and girls, and her father gave her nearly everything she wanted. I was considered the ugly duckling, and my mother could not buy me new clothes, so I wore the same old clothes each week, washing my socks each night to wear the next day, and I had no father.
People could not figure out why she insisted on having me around her, and I have always appreciated that she would invite me to go to parties and football games with her and her friends. She would tell her other friends that if they did not want me at their parties, then she was not attending either. She was a one grade ahead of me, so when she graduated, all of the parties and games stopped, and I was once again a loner.
Over the years, we have kept in touch with each other, even though sometimes months or even a year would go by without our touching base with each other. Yet, she knows more about me than anyone in the world, and I the same for her. We have kept each other’s secrets, and when she needed help, she knew that I was always a phone call away.
She has breast cancer, and the doctors have discovered that the cancer has spread, so, each time I speak with her I do not know if it will be my last time. It scares me to think of being in the world without her, the person who knows me best from the inside out, even more than Douglas.
We end each call these days with words of love and hope. She knows that I am praying for her healing. So, there are dark clouds around my dearest friend right now, but the years have been mighty good, especially the two of us riding in her father’s 1964 Impala through the streets of our hometown. She is still beautiful to me, mainly because it was always the beauty in her heart that defined our friendship.
If you have an old friend who has been your sounding board through the years, always there in times of trials and grief, and if you have not talked to them in a while, call them today. For old friends are the best gifts from God, for He knows that we cannot make it on earth alone, and that sometimes we need a tangible shoulder to cry on and someone to tell us that we are special, even when the rest of the world refuses to see our value and worth.