This one is for Deb
I have no interest in baring my soul in late night talks at the bar with someone I went to high school with. I am hardly emotionally connected to my 300 or so social media acquaintances. My colleagues are, mostly, nice, decent folks whom I respect as educators and human beings. But the thought of enjoying a beer with many of them on a Friday afternoon is… unappealing. The writers I meet and work with have, for the most part, been cool. Are they my friends though? Most of them?
This is not to say that I hate them. They’re just not my friends. Acquaintances? People I’m fond of? Sure. Friends? Not so much.
And that’s fine. Some people do not need many friends.
I am one of those people.
That said, over the years there have been a few I have found myself drawn to.
The weirdos. The freaks. The criminals. The sinners. The saints. The philosophers. The poets. The lovers. The dreamers. And me.
Those are my friends. Those are my people.
Deb Richardson, who passed away on Friday, is in that esteemed group.
A French teacher in the high school where I work, Deb often had a free period the same time I did. She was always knitting, smiling, welcoming, and pouring a cup of tea or coffee, which is why I would often make the trek up to her room on the opposite side of the building and the next floor up. She had stories about living in Europe that were always fun to hear. So much so, in fact, that we made plans to some day visit Europe together (without students around because I have no desire to chaperone a student field trip to Europe — we differed on that). When we hung out, we talked about life, we laughed at each others jokes, we listened to each others stories, we shared our histories and our dreams, we bitched about our jobs, and we became close.
In her I saw a person who never doubted who she was, who embraced and expressed her passions and who was unapologetic and proud in all the right ways. But there was no arrogance about her. There was joy. There was kindness. There was wisdom. There was creativity. There was love.
And there still is.
The school year started three weeks ago. I’ve been busy, so I haven’t taken that long walk up those several stairs and across the school to visit her. I kept telling myself I would soon.
Now I can’t.
Now I will never get to go to Europe with her or enjoy another cup of tea with her. However, whatever strange, ethereal connection a strange, ethereal man like myself needs to call someone friend still exists between us.
I can feel it. It exists because though her body is dead, her pride, her joy, her kindness, her wisdom, her creativity, and her love still lives.
And as I write this, I know she is somewhere on the other side of the rainbow bridge, knitting, maybe drinking something a little stronger than tea — perhaps a piña colada like we shared on my 44th birthday — and enjoying eternity. When I get there, I imagine she will sigh, grin, put down her knitting needles, exclaim, “Welcome, Mr. Stueve!” and hug me. I’ll make waffles and we will eat them together, waiting for the rest of the weirdos, freaks, criminals, sinners, saints, philosophers, poets, lovers, and dreamers to arrive.