Friends are gifts we never know where we will find them, nor they us. Sometimes they are neighbors, sometimes chance meetings along the way– at the park, on committees, a fellow-supporter during a 5k, at work, walking our dogs, in the grocery store.

Each of us is a veritable trove of life… anecdotes, encounters, experience. Once that chord is struck when you just know this person will understand there you are with a bond, hopefully, for a long time if not for life.

Friends are more than simply allies or buffers or supporters. Friends help us find a completeness that, without them we are seeking for something in that friendship’s place. No matter how far away or how long since we have seen them they are always with us in some strange cosmic way. We remember things said, stories shared, situations experienced or resolved. So when we lose one it is deeply felt.

Oh we don’t lose the memories or the character they helped build in us. It isn’t as though we have to return the life they gave us when they are gone. There is simply no more to come.

I lost a friend.

She was my supervisor at the last library I was in charge of. But far more she was my mentor, and my friend. She had a dignified strength about her and the wackiest sense of humor imaginable for a nun, which she was. I last spoke to her mid-September, she was in hospital for a cancer which she did not share, only that she was concerned with a pneumonia that was developing. She at the time was at a rehab facility where she planned to overcome this blip, then resume her treatments.

She died 10 days ago.

So though she will always be a part of me for what we shared in this life I can no longer hear her voice except in my memory, can no longer “catch up”, can no longer hear her laugh.

I will miss her.

Income taxes, influenza and pine trees

Really, none of these things has anything to do with another, nor are they related in any way. It just happens they each culminated for me at about the same time.

So not having had a flu bug in I have no idea how long, can’t remember, I really thought I was dying. I’d had a flu shot. Why would I have the flu? Because this year they forgot one, or a couple of strains. Whatever, if they did miss one or some I got it or them. I really don’t remember the past 10 days clearly. I do remember my lovely rescue Lily scratching at the bed clothes and whining, and my whichever arm was closest weakly waving her off. I vaguely recall taking my temperature positive I would suffocate before the thing beeped because my nose no longer drew air into my lungs. My son calling, when hearing how muffled I sounded yelling he thought I didn’t get sick as though this was all my fault, and my brother –a doctor– also calling to tell me he’d not played a particularly good afternoon at golf, did I know how terrible I sounded?

Such helpers, my family.

Just as the fog lifted my accountant called with the wonderful news that my taxes were ready (a record), and exactly how much I owed and why. Still being in a more or less ethereal state not really in this universe but the alternate one I’d been inhabiting this did not cause my blood pressure to change one iota. Thankfully.

So the pine trees. Well, I was speaking with some very nice neighbors about our yards, the landscapers and impending spring and they mentioned a wonderful tree man who takes trees out before you know it before your very eyes and did I know he was in the neighborhood? Today? No I didn’t, so he went to find him and ask him to come over and look at a bradford pear I wanted taken out. He did and this morphed into a conversation about the evils of pine trees. I’d always loved these trees. The way they whisper with the wind brushing through them, swaying in a gentle wind (I guess this is actually not a good thing), and my adored grandmother loved them. So now I will not only remove one, medium-small brittle, disease-prone and insect-ridden bradford pear but 8 (read: all) pine trees. I’m not sure I can bear that kind of sun shock. Suddenly my partially-shaded yard will be in the glaring summer sun.

I may need to think on this one a while.

Vaccine drama

Be forewarned: I highly favor giving vaccinations to children.

So when I was 3 or 4 (I actually remember this because it was a house my family shared and it only had one bathroom) I had German measles. I remember lying on the living room sofa under a blanket while my mother spoke in a hushed voice with the doctor, then being whisked up in her arms. Next thing I recall is waking to the soft-spoken prayers of our Presbyterian church minister, Dr. James Fogartie.

I suppose I must have survived the ordeal well, even though following the high fever accompanying the measles I had a bout with encephalitis, something many young ones do not survive, or survive badly with some brain damage (pause for the “ok, that explains a lot” comments).

Anyway, I must not have had the mumps vaccine either (if it even was available??) because I also had those, on one “side”. So I am a tremendous advocate for vaccinating children.

It is how pertussis (which I also had), polio, a very crippling disease, diphtheria and now measles/rubella and mumps have been largely eradicated. And there is now I understand a chickenpox vaccine.

Apparently many parents believe these vaccines, or combinations thereof, will harm, even kill a child. Well, they did not seem to harm us and it is because we were vaccinated that these diseases are largely avoided. Except now people are refusing to vaccinate their children so they will come back, trust me. You can subvert or subdue a germ or virus but it (or its mutations) is almost unkillable. There are isolated instances where a child (perhaps coincidentally) did die after receiving one or some vaccinations. I am not a doctor. I do not know whether there were other factors or complications. I do know I did have my son vaccinated with everything they had, even the hepatitis ones when he went on a mission trip to Mexico. Good thing I did, too because he dropped the sharp point of a heavy shovel on his big toe and injured it rather badly. But he did survive, with new toenail.

Even now aging folks such as myself have the options of pneumonia and shingles vaccines. So at the recommendation of my doctor I have had them. And survived.

I am all for doing anything I can to keep any form of germ, virus or microbe out of the stream of life if at all possible. Maybe some think it unnecessary to live beyond the age of 35, but at my age I am so grateful for the years beyond that age I have been gifted.

Not afraid of the alternative but do not want to rush or encourage it either.

Trade-off or bad timing

My little rescue dog, Murphy, has been in kidney failure for over a year. His exceptional veterinarians have been closely monitoring him and adjusting his medications to keep him functioning.

Last week, when a large snow storm was predicted I had planned a trip to Texas. I could have gone anytime. It wasn’t the greatest weather out there, either. Cold, rainy, even some ice. I did have opportunities to see my family but they’re always there. I can see them anytime.

I board my dogs at their vet. I know if anything happens there won’t be any mistakes or accidents. Murphy was happily riding in the car, head flung with abandon out the driver’s side window, barking at the occasional motorcycle or bicyclist.

The snow nearly shut down my home airport and my return flight was cancelled, I had to rebook for the next day.

Maybe it was that one day that made a difference. Maybe it was the whole week that did. I even could have taken Murphy with me on this trip. He has flown with me before and travels well. But I know that if he had morphed into the dog I found when I returned I would have been at a complete and utter loss, out in Texas with his doctors back home in North Carolina.

So I picked up my rag-doll puppy, gently carried him to the car, Lily, bounding with all her 70-odd pounds of muscle and excitement alongside. No, this was not the same dog I had brought to the vet a week before. His doctor had told me that in kidney failure, when the kidneys no longer function at all things happen very fast.

I had no idea.

The next morning I phoned and they said to bring him for them to look at him. He was badly dehydrated and I had not had much luck getting him to eat and he’d had nothing to drink. So he was hooked up to an i.v., and blood was drawn to determine what was happening with his kidneys which was not good news. Today I was allowed to visit him and bring him home for a couple of hours. I was given a syringe to flush his catheter. He rested next to me on his favorite sofa, the one he would patiently sleep on each day when I worked as a librarian, standing on the arm to greet me when I came home. I drank some coffee, worked a crossword and checked emails on my iPad, pretending things were as they had always been. And he slept.

I had been instructed to return him at a certain time and I milked the time for as long as possible before bundling him in his blanket and bringing his favorite pillow to return him to the hospital. As I placed him back in his treatment area his eyes appeared brighter, alert, and I forbade myself to allow hope to creep in.

So many tears.