A Tribute to Friendship Past, Present and Future
There were six of us and we met in high school. You might have wanted to label us a click but we were more than that; we were each other’s lifeline. We weren’t selfish or snotty, we weren’t full of ourselves and we weren’t exclusive. Others came into our circle on occasion, some for only a short time, some a bit longer, but the fact remains that when all was said and done we were the definition of friendship.
Sandy was the hub and we were the spokes, me, Jill, Dalia, Johanna and Nelda. Sandy was sweet and funny and her family welcomed us with open arms. I think we were all most comfortable at Sandy’s house. Her family defined normalcy for us. Jill was quiet and shy. Dalia was vibrant and had a smile that could light the room. Johanna was our intellectual mind and Nelda was our free spirit. Me, well who can really define themselves, not me; I have no idea what the others saw in me.
Although we remained in contact after graduation for a time, it became more sporadic, more one on one and less of the group. Like I said, Sandy was the hub of our wheel and she was the first to pass, far too young and far too cruelly. She developed leukemia and she fought until the end but she did finally leave. We fell apart and drifted from each other’s lives. My youngest daughter is named after her. It was the only gift I could give her parents and the best tribute to friendship I could offer. The girls often crossed my mind and occasionally I made attempts to find them and catch up. Jill, who was my best friend through high school, got a Christmas card and letter from me once a year. We both lived in the same town and I regret we gave each other so little as the years passed. She passed away in November 2009. Regret is such a wasted emotion and yet in this case it served a purpose and I began my quest.
I thought of Johanna often over the years, for whatever reason she crossed my mind the most, so I began my search with her. I found her on Facebook. As it turns out we had all joined within months of each other; Fate, Maybe so. ‘Hi Johanna, it’s Sharon Sirawatka Collins. Do you remember me?” and her reply, “Of course I do. Nelda is on Facebook too.” And so we three found each other. We all wanted to find Dalia and Johanna finally tracked Dalia down and she was on facebook too. So we began with posts and e-mails and phone calls.
Nelda and I live near each other but the other girls live a coast away. As luck would have it each of them would be visiting parents that summer. Dalia, Nelda and I got together very briefly over lunch and coffee one day. The talk was nonstop and we tripped over our words trying to catch up with over 35 years. Johanna came into town for a bit less than 3 weeks to be with her mother and sister. It was a complicated situation so we only got to spend a couple days and a few short hours together. Unfortunately we have not been able to get all four of us together at once yet.
When Johanna was in town we spent an evening over dinner. Johanna met me at my home and we drove together to join our friend. Seeing Johanna for the first time in years was like falling into a comfortable well loved chair and I will never forget the over whelming emotion I felt the instant her eyes met mine. When she pulled up in front of my house in her sisters old truck she peered through its closed windows and the girl I knew smiled at me. As she walked toward me smiling the vision of the girl faded and before me stood the woman she had become, changed but yet the same and tears filled my eyes.
During the evening we kept dredging up memories long forgotten but obviously stored away because they were cherished. I don’t think any of use understood the significance of our friendship until now. The funny thing is when you have friends who were a lifeline during a time when each of us was drowning in our own sorrows and teenage angst something stays intact and never leaves. How lucky is that? As my friend Johanna said toward the end of the evening,” Sharon we’re grownups now" what she really meant was, “Sharon I think we are finally all whole people.”
Over the past couple years I’ve had the opportunity to learn that our lives have not been easy. We are all still dealing with sorrows and pain, some still from the past, some from our own doing, and some that we had no control over. The difference now is we are less afraid to reveal our truths. Now we can talk to each other openly because we have all been through the fire more than once and we have come back sometimes stronger, sometimes not so strong and sometimes very grateful for this gift of life. In fact we are more open with each other now than we ever were as those fresh young girls hiding behind our sorrows. Then we just needed to feel normal, now we need so much more.
So here’s to friends that last a lifetime. They are rare and precious and I am honored by them all.