Monday, December 14, 2009

Michele


Me and Michele, first day of High School, 1992


Every summer from 4th grade until 9th grade, Michele and I would practically live at each other's houses.

She moved to Bakersfield from South Dakota and -- due to proximity -- we became fast friends.

She lived across the street and over one from our house and -- I swear -- by the end of the summer, our feet were tough from running barefoot across hot Bakersfield asphalt in order to get to the other's house.

Like us, Michele had a pool. We had a slide, which was always a great bargaining chip when trying to decide where to spend the afternoon. But Michele usually won out because her house had the best snack foods, no bedtime and she had a waterbed.

I can't tell you how many different games of MASH and how many collages we made together. We took quizzes in teenager magazines to determine what type of friends we were and what type of guy was our type. We played with, and then outgrew Barbies together.

Her mom was the first person to notice I grew boobs. And to point out how I finish eating one part of my dinner before starting the next. You know, potatoes, meat, peas. I was embarrassed. Her dad laughed and shook his head. But I loved her family's South Dakotan sensibility.

And every year her grandma would make a salsa that -- I swear to you -- was the best of my life. We'd eat it with Ritz crackers. Sometimes -- if we were lucky -- she'd make us "summer sausage". It's like the Hickory Farms stuff, but better.

I don't really know why we stopped being so close once we got into high school. We just sorta became friends with different groups of people. We just ... weren't close anymore.

My mom, younger brother and I moved to an apartment that wasn't across the street and over one from her house and even though she would give me rides to school when she got a car, we just weren't the same friends we had been.

I still remember her phone number: 832-SNOT.

I still remember the Simpsons episode we watched, laughing RIOTOUSLY for HOURS when Bart Simpson said "Ow, quit it".

I still remember her brother picking on us, but we both loved it because he was older and, therefore, cooler.

We used to see each other around town and try to catch up in those awkward run-ins you have when you want to say everything, but just say "Yeah, I'm great. Just working here. Dating so and so."

We reunited on Facebook, which has been nice to see what she's up to these days, but it's still strange.

So many years of my life that were spent in her bedroom and her in mine. Sharing secrets like only little girls can do and laughing about our futures. Growing up together and trying to act grown up together.

So when our mutual friend Jocelyn told me on Sunday that Michele's dad died on Saturday night, I felt like a piece of my childhood went missing.

I don't remember much about him because he was always so quiet.

He liked to drink diet soda and he'd put the cans in those foam sleeves to keep it cool.

He was an amazing wood-worker, making the most beautiful furniture I have ever seen. Just right there in the garage. He was a true craftsman.

He had a tattoo on his forearm. It was blurry so I don't know what it said, and I never asked.

He had diabetes and I knew about it. He was never overweight at all. Just had the disease. The idea of the needles every day scared me.

And, I guess, the diabetes eventually just got so bad that he was on life support for awhile and then last week, Michele and her mom went to Los Angeles and decided to turn off the machines that were keeping him alive.

Her birthday is this Thursday.

I could never forget. We used to read each other's horoscopes and nod knowingly when they told us what great friends Leo and Sag would be.

Her dad's funeral is Friday.

It seems to me that too many people have lost parents lately. Are we so old? Is life just gonna keep stubbornly moving forward no matter how hard we drag our feet to slow it down?

I whisper to Phoebe "Don't ever grow up okay? Stay little forever."

I don't want the change that's inevitable. I like right now. I like remembering Michele's dad looking disapprovingly at us giggling down the hallway, the two of us still soaking wet from the swimming pool.

He was a fixture of my childhood as much as my own dad, who wasn't around much because he worked out of town.

I don't know what it will be like for Michele to celebrate her birthday this year.

I don't know what she is thinking or feeling because when you have been such good friends with someone, how do you strike up that old familiarity when it's been so long in the past?

And what happens to the memories of our youth when the people who were such a major part of them pass away?

Michele's dad should have lived forever. I never imagined he would die.

I will always remember him invincible.

Sitting at the dinner table. Making woodwork in the garage. Shaking his head in that South Dakotan way. Possibly annoyed at the giggling girls skipping down the hallway in their wet swimsuits, completely unaware of the cruelty of time.

1 comment:

Jocelyn said...

I love it. I'm forwarding to Chel right now. You are so good at remembering!