February 1, 2003 was the worst day of my life, but I think you know that. I’d like to think, if the situation was reversed, it would have been equally as devastating to you.
I don’t kick myself because I had turned off my phone and didn’t get the call when Ellen made it. This wasn’t Dad or Gram with some warning that they were about to leave. You and I had a great conversation the day before. Truth? I was surprised as hell that you picked up the phone. That almost never happened. You know how, after someone has suddenly left, the stories come out? “Just out of the blue, Jeremiah called/dropped by/sent an email/text/Facebook comment and the next day, he was gone.” That phone call the day before was one of those stories. I don’t remember what the hell we talked about, except I was light-headed after giving blood, and you ragged on me for being an airhead blonde because of it. And I said, “Fuck you.” You said, “Fuck you.” . And a bunch of other shit. Our usual shit. I think I forgot to say, “Talk to you later.” That was odd. I always sign off a phone call that way. Maybe that was another sign that, no, I wouldn’t talk to you later. Or ever again.
It’s been almost fifteen years. I lost you, I lost Toulouse, I lost my housing (through my own folly). That was the last time I had a home of my own. 2003 was a real festering turd of a year. And I am not recovered from it. Your departure is still a raw, oozing wound. It doesn’t heal. It won’t heal. I don’t want it to heal. I don’t want to get over losing my soul sister.
Yeah, sister. You have one of your own. I have two. I think it’s fair to say, we were closer to each other than to them. I couldn’t and cannot talk to Kathy and Laura like I could talk to you. I was like the alien in the midst of the Thatcher family. We kept each other’s confidences. We talked about stuff that would get me puzzled and dismissive “You’re weird” looks from K&L. You and me, though, we got each other.
I don’t think it’s a secret that I needed you more than you needed me. You had my back. Maybe I took it for granted. Yeah, I did. I have no idea what it was I did for you. Made you laugh? Got you into some Lucy & Ethel type capers? I think maybe part of my ongoing, decade-and-a-half-long grief is guilt. Guilt for taking, for not giving back enough, for being selfish. I took your presence in my life for granted, and I also took it for granted that we would be on the Earth together for decades. 1979-2003, not even a quarter-century. it’s not fair.
You’ve missed a lot. You missed me coming in third on Jeopardy. You missed me on “Reba.” (and Ms. McIntyre was kind and gracious when I almost burst out crying all over her because you would have loved that I was on her show). I needed to talk to you about what I saw of Dad with dementia and how scary that shit was. You weren’t here to consult over the issues that drove the final breaking wedge between the rest of the Thatchers and me. If ever I needed a soul sister, that was then.
You should have been here to torment me on my fiftieth birthday. I should have been able to mock you on YOUR fiftieth birthday. Coward. You skipped Earth before that milestone. Forty years was enough, I guess.
By the way, I’m the one who put the yellow rose in the bouquet that was the center of your memorial service. Ellen went along with it. And I’m sure you dumped the picture into that bouquet. Our final “Fuck you” to each other?
You’re the one who kept my feet to the fire writing. I should have been able to consult you about publishing. By all rights, the first copy should have gone to you, not just the dedication.
I still have trouble referring to those closest to me as “best friend.” That’s your job, and fuck you, Bitch, you quit on me. What happens if I call someone else “Best Friend”? Is she going to quit on me, too?
I’m angry, still. How dare you leave? And should I feel guilty over being angry? Doesn’t change the fact that I’m angry, bereft, abandoned. Yeah, you were over a year younger than me, but you had more big sister energy. I feel like I’ve been cut loose since then, tumbling from a plane without a parachute in a high wind. It’s not your fault, but I wonder if I’d have been blown around so much or made so many bad decisions if you were still here. Or maybe you would have ended the friendship because I’m too much of a pain in the ass.
I don’t know. You had a lot of nerve to be able to get tanked, barf, and not have a hangover the next day. Such a bitch for being smarter, better self-disciplined, and more responsible than me. How dare you have your shit together.
I miss you. Every day. I just thought you should know.