This weekend, I'm traveling to Ashland to see a few plays with my friend Maureen. We've been friends forever, it seems, since we met in college, in graduate school. She was twenty-four, and I was twenty-two. The first time I saw Maureen was in a class. She had raised her hand to ask or answer a question. I was immediately attracted to her. Her green eyes, blond hair, freckles, easy laughter, and most of all, the light of her presence.
I followed her outside, asked her name. Before we rode away from campus on our bicycles, I saw what looked like a wedding ring on her finger. At the time, I was very unhappily married. We continued to talk while riding our bikes. I was behind her, and at the stop light I caught up and asked, "Are you married?"
"Yes," she said. "Kind of." She gave me a mysterious smile.
I had to find out more! We rode to the nearest pub, parked our bikes, went inside, and talked for hours. We've been talking for hours ever since.
That was over thirty years ago.
Maureen and I have never blamed each other for anything, held grudges, or felt our relationship was out of balance. The giving flows back and forth, it is simple and without strings. My husband says that is a real friendship. He believes if the friendship has a lot of problems, it is not a friendship, it is something else. I'm not sure I agree. I feel I've had different kinds of friendships, and some have faded away, that's true. We go through many different phases in our lives, and we change constantly. My changes are not my friend's changes, and his/her changes are not mine. We move on from here to there; we can't take everything with us, nor would we want to. This life is change, it is impermanence. But I have never felt like I have lost a friend. I have lost a time, a place, but I can hear a song, drive through a town, play tennis, watch the waves rush in and out over the sand, and my friend is there, wherever it was I knew that friend best, her eyes and laughter, his most solemn look. Love endures, despite everything.
All those years ago, Maureen explained to me how she could kind of be married. Of course, neither of our marriages lasted. We both had married young, we were Catholic girls. And there were other reasons, and some of those reasons we can't know. We don't know everything about our own lives; and even less about another person's life. This is why I love literature, to discover what I can about this human world. But in real time, we can never really know another fully. (I mean the personality, not the spirit.) We only learn what people are able to tell us. Able to tell us, is the key. One of my favorite quotes is from A River Runs Through It when the father says (about his son), "We can love completely without complete understanding."
Maureen has taught me the most about not being judgmental. She has also taught me about the light, about being thankful for each moment and blessing this existence, how life is in the moments, and when they are joyful, ah, what a celebration! But Maureen will celebrate just about anything. I celebrate her.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society