I met her at the newspaper when I went to work there in 1989. I admired her writing- so forthright, so intelligent, so creative. I observed her putting letters in the mail to her friend, Martha. I thought "wow, she must be a good friend, as much as Donna writes to her." I thought how lucky Martha was. I wondered what was in those letters addressed in Donna's distinct cursive hand-writing.
Later, I would learn Martha was her mother. Again, I felt envious. Donna was a woman that I admired and wanted to be like. This is always the kind of woman friends I have sought out.
Little by little, she and I began to talk and share. I didn't know if she knew I was a writer. This was before I ever went back to college to finish my degree, but I had been writing since I was ten years old. I was dating a younger, cute photographer that worked at the paper. That Christmas, he and I participated in the living nativity at my church. He stepped away from the group and shot a photo. In the next few days I penned my experience- how I stood in freezing temperatures, wearing a choir robe that ended in length far above my blue jeans and hiking boots. I wrote of how we all stood there- waiting. How no one came to see our little vignette. How we wondered aloud among ourselves if this mattered, our efforts, when no one came to see our living nativity. Then I told the story of how a young mother brought her little daughter whose eyes were wide with wonder. How this little child believed and experienced Christ's birth when she looked upon our group and a plastic doll laying in a manger. I wrote it all up and turned in the photographer's photo and Donna loved it. She published it and let me know if/when I wanted to write for her, she would publish it. Thus began a long relationship between writer and editor. I threw it at her and she fixed it and printed it. I cannot tell you the opportunities this woman has allowed in my life with regard to my writing.
And I cannot tell you the letters that have passed between the two of us. After three years of working at my hometown paper, I left to go to work for a little bigger paper north of my hometown. At that point, Donna and I became pen pals. Then after seven years of hand-written letters, we started emailing. That is when the letters really began to fly. Most people would look at an email from one of us to the other and think "that is too long," as in, I'm not going to take the time to read that. Doug will see me open an email from Donna and he will say every time: "Donna writes a lot, doesn't she?" "Yes, Doug. Donna writes a lot." If I ask a friend what they think about a situation, they might counter and say "what do you think?" If I ask Donna what she thinks, she tells me. Oh, how she tells me. And I love it. She is my dear diary friend.
I've been accused of talking of a subject ad nauseum. Oh, really? So? You say that like it is a bad thing. While Donna is a journalist, my degree is in English. She gets to the point. I embellish and carry on and fluff and puff and get all superfluous on you. One woman's ad nauseum is another woman's Heaven. The two of us really gnaw a subject to the bone. We ruminate it to death. As long as one or the other of us wants to keep discussing it, we do.
Through the years we've discussed our families, our children, relationships , jobs, fears, health, death, home decorating, craft projects, our pets, manicures, hair styles, books we are reading, scripture she is studying, sermons her minister preaches. We try to figure it all out. We cheer one another on. We support one another.
We are both Libras, born three days of one another in the same year. We graduated from high school the same year. We both got married the same year. She has remained married to the same man all these years. I met her shortly after I was divorced. She thought I was oh, so together but once she got to know me, learned that in reality, my life was one big struggle. We've talked each of my relationships to death that I've been in since I've been single. She will honestly tell me what she thinks such as "I think he is using you, or he means well, or what were you thinking?" We are both with men that are the total opposites of the other- but what is interesting is that in my relationship I'm with a laid back man and with Donna, she is the laid back one. So we always help one another to see the other person's point of view.
In all these years, if she has ever been angry or put-out with me, I never knew about it. I was unreasonable once. Knowing her she would probably say "I don't know what you are talking about."
We have differing ideas. Such as what will happen to us when we die. Donna wants a casket and a tombstone. I want my ashes to be tossed to the wind by my children in some place that is beautiful. At this stage in life, I sometimes wonder how it will be in the end. If she goes first, I will have to write one last letter and tuck it into her casket just before they close it. If I go first, she will have to write a letter to me, burn it and toss it to the wind. That is how it is with us. One of us will have to have the last word.
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