An Ode to Jo

I end this year on a sad note. My best friend from grammar school and high school passed away on Christmas day. I received notice via an email from her sister. She was 51 years old. And with that news, came a flood of childhood memories.

Joanne Rita Dunlea Ezell Broyles moved to Florida in my second year of high school. I remember her telling me that her mother, who had been divorced from her father for some time, had met a man who lived in Florida and they were moving. I didn’t believe her. And for the life of me, I can’t remember when or how she left. She just did. There was no big fanfare. I didn’t help them move. I don’t even think she called me on the phone to say she was leaving. She just did. It was odd for me, because up to that point, she had been my best friend. But she left to live in another state and I never knew when or if I would ever see her again. We wrote to each other for a few more years and then in 1985 or so, I went to Florida to visit with her. That was the last time I saw her or spoke to her.

We met by way of our sisters. My sister, Gloria, and Joanne’s sister, Kathy, met in school and became best friends. It was only natural that if we wanted to get out of the house and go with our sisters anywhere, we would have to deal with each other. Just like how many good friendships form, we didn’t like each other at first. But if we wanted to go where our sisters were going, we had to put up with each other. But then we found a commonality in the fact that neither of us had a best friend. If nothing else, it was convenient having someone closer to our age to talk to while our sisters were off doing God knows what. (Seriously, God really does know what you two were doing. Shame on you!) Kidding.

Our families had much in common. Initially, the Dunleas lived two blocks away from where we lived in Greenville. We all went to St. Mary’s school together. Gloria and Kathy were in the same class; my brother Jim/Jimmy and her brother Jim/Jimmy were in the same class at St. Mary’s as well. Interesting to note that my brother now goes by the name “James” (I think he secretly wants to be a chauffeur or a butler) and her brother later on was better known as “Michael” or “Mike”. I’m not sure when he became “Mike” but it was sometime when he was in high school I think. Joanne and I went to St. Mary’s as well but we were in different grades and therefore in different classes. So if we wanted to see each other, it would be after school or on weekends.

It’s hard to imagine it now, all of us in our little Catholic gray and navy plaid uniforms, crossover neckties, white starched shirts and knee socks. All of us, supposedly getting a good Catholic upbringing; the best that money could buy in Norwich, CT. But my oh my, I’m sure we did NOT turn out to be what the nuns had in mind. Far from it. Sister Mary Francis Mary Elizabeth Mary is off somewhere shaking her head in disgust at this very moment.

The Kane’s and the Dunlea’s were all matched up except for Christine, Joanne’s oldest sister, and Raymond, my younger brother. But somehow they survived.

Joanne’s father, a big irish-looking man with red hair and red mutton chop sideburns, was a postal worker, a mail carrier. (Note, Kathy, Joanne’s sister works for the post office. My father worked for the State of CT and my sister works for the State in the same building that he worked in. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!) Mr. Dunlea, whose first name was Jim (My father’s name was Jim as well) also worked evenings as a bartender at Club 41 in Norwich. He would take Joanne with him to work and sometimes I joined them. She would entice me to go to keep her company by saying that he would give us Coca-Cola with cherries in it. He would fill a bar glass with maraschino cherries to the brim and then add the soda. It was the best! Not to mention Club 41 had the best pizza in town! Eating that pizza and drinking out of bar glasses was a treat! It made us feel all grown up. In my house, we didn’t have soda, so that was a huge draw for me. I would do anything to get away from Wyler’s lemonade and Tang! Pitoo-ey! Yack!

One of my memories of Joanne’s father was when he took Joanne and I to the drive-in in Uncasville. Joanne’s parents had gotten divorced and it was his weekend to have Joanne. With four kids, my family never went to the drive-in. So this was a treat. We didn’t care what the movie was, as long as we were doing something out of the house. I was 14 at the time.

The three of us were sitting in the front seat of his car, nestled in to see the movie. The speaker was hung in Mr. Dunlea’s window. With a highball between his legs, and candy for us to snack on, the movie started, and we were all content to sit back and enjoy the show. Keep in mind again that I was 14 and the scariest film I had seen to that day was probably “The Wizard of Oz”.

The movie started out with a zoomed in view of a model’s voluptuous lips as she sensuously parts them, while a photographer talks her through it and snaps pictures of her.
“Hmmm, what is the name of this movie again?”
As the movie progresses, not long into the movie, a fashion model gets brutally raped.
“And what is this movie about again?”
“Just eat your candy” Slurppp. As he downed his highball and made another.
The rapist goes to trial, gets free, comes back and rapes the model’s little sister. Then the little sister takes revenge.
Hmmm. Wonder what that movie was rated? It certainly wasn’t a Disney flick, that’s for sure.
In the front seat of his big Chevy Impala-like car, we all squirmed with discomfort as we watched the movie together. Joanne and I, elbowing each other in every uncomfortable scene, as if to say, “Did you see that?” And him slugging down his highballs hoping we wouldn’t notice the inappropriate nature or theme of the movie by turning down the volume on the speaker. How could we not?

I was so young and innocent, I would have preferred to be on the swings at the drive-in. But alas, just like every experience I had with Joanne, it was an educational moment that none of us had planned for. I’m not sure I even knew what sex was, let alone what rape was. Truly an unforgettable memory.

Our mothers were a lot alike yet different. My mother, Benita, was a stay at home mom and Joanne’s mother, Rita, worked for the State Hospital. (Benita and Rita rhyme!) Joanne’s parents got divorced during a time when it wasn’t fashionable – not like it is today, when it is common to hear that someone is on their second, third, even fourth marriage. But back in the 70’s, you didn’t get divorced. “For better or worse” meant “We don’t care how unhappy you are, you will stay married.” But Mr. and Mrs. Dunlea, for whatever reason(s), had to separate and did.

This impacted Joanne in ways that only she understood. Joanne was the type of girl that hid her pain well. She had smiling Irish eyes just like her Dad and she never let on that she was sad. She talked about the more painful experiences of her life in such a calm manner that it was as if she had conditioned herself to not allow herself to show or feel pain. She was completely opposite of me. I wear my heart on my sleeve and cry when I’m in pain. This wouldn’t be the only thing we would be opposite in. But as they say, opposites attract.

After the divorce, Mrs. Dunlea had become a free woman. Something I’m sure my mother envied. I can remember some of the men Mrs. Dunlea dated. She was an attractive French woman, with an olive complexion, and beautiful teeth (they were false teeth but nobody would know it. Well, I guess they do now! Ha!) Joanne hated all the men that her mother went out with, but never uttered a word to her mother. As her friend, I just listened but honestly couldn’t relate until I was much older. One of the men she dated, I think his name was Roger, had a son who was a little younger than me by maybe a year. Joanne and I had to go to Roger’s house to visit and the son was there. The son didn’t want us there any more than we wanted to be there. The merging of these two family units wasn’t how they portrayed families doing it on TV like on the “Brady Bunch”. “Call it much more than a hunch, that these two groups should NOT form a family”. Anyway, Joanne and this boy were not too keen on the prospect that they could become instant siblings if Roger and Rita so chose. They were both angry and leary about that notion. Before going in the house, Mrs. Dunlea had laid down the law that we would all get along on this visit. Her future seemed to depend on it.

Why was I there? I was just there probably because I had slept over the night before and didn’t want to go home. (I slept over their house a lot.) Hey, if they were going to get married and this boy was going to become Joanne’s step brother, he needed to know that I came with the package deal.

Anyway, we were at Roger’s house and Mrs. Dunlea wanted us to behave ourselves because I can only assume that she wanted to make a good impression. When we got there, we were instantly shooed off to join the son in his room to try and "make nice". The son, equally as angry over the intrusion, didn’t exactly make us feel welcome. An altercation broke out when I picked up the boy’s Elton John album to look at it. He told me not to touch it and then he hit me. I hauled off and hit him back. I underestimated his rage over the situation and he lunged at me and we started to fight. Mrs. Dunlea came in to find us fighting and the look on her face was one of complete disappointment and disapproval – at me! It didn’t matter if the boy had hit me first or that he was punching the crap out of a girl. I was blowing her chances possibly of marrying Roger. If looks could have killed, I would have been dead on the floor and buried with that Elton John album. Joanne was there and didn’t like the prospect of her mother marrying Roger. But at the same time, her mother was angry at me and so she didn’t speak to me the whole ride home. To this day, I can’t hear the Elton John song, “Harmony” without thinking about that event. (Darn, I wish the song playing at the time had been “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fightin’”. That would have made a better anecdote. Oh well.)

Anyway, Rita, no, excuse me, Marie, no wait, it was Marie Rita. (All the girls in Joanne’s mother’s family were named “Marie” and they went by their second/middle name. “Marie Julie” was Joanne’s Aunt Julie, and so on and so forth. There were like eight sisters that had the name “Marie”. Did those grandparents like the name Marie or what?) But alas, Mrs. Dunlea, Rita, Marie Rita, never ended up marrying Roger. That was not to be. She married a gentleman from Florida and had a long marriage until he passed away a few years ago. To that, I say, “Dear Mrs. Dunlea, You could have ended up marrying Roger. See? I saved you from that!...You’re welcome!”

My mother I think wanted to be like Mrs. Dunlea and wanted to divorce my father. But unlike Mrs. Dunlea, my mother couldn’t drive. She didn’t have her license and therefore she was stuck with my father. He was her transportation and connection to the outside world. Other than that, I always thought that my parents too should have split when I was at an earlier age. Knowing this, this seemed to comfort Joanne and we had the commonality of watching our parents fight together and helped each other through. I think that the Dunleas felt that we had it better than them because our parents stayed together. But in essence, we had our own demons to battle. We were no better, just different.

Mrs. Dunlea could drive and had a car and once in a while she took my mother to bingo with her. I can picture their car so vividly. Because I went everywhere with Joanne, I spent a lot of time in that car, listening to WICH on AM radio. I can remember one time “Macarthur’s Park” came on the radio and I blurted out, “I hate this song! Someone left the cake out in the rain” I mimicked. Joanne quickly elbowed me in the side and whispered between her gritting teeth, “Shhh. That’s my mother’s favorite song!” I seemed to always step in the proverbial it and Joanne was always there to elbow me for doing so. After a while I just stopped talking.

I have great memories of going to Misquamicut to the Andrea Hotel and riding the waves; to Beach Pond (where Joanne and I had to be rescued once because we had paddled out too far in a kayak and couldn’t get back in to shore. That was scary. Again, the stern look of disapproval from Marie Rita standing on the shore. Crap! “Please, Mr. Lifeguard, I’d rather you just let me drown.”) The State Hospital had a reservoir that we went swimming in often. You had to be a State employee to get in. It was located where the SEAT bus depot is in Preston now. Mrs. Dunlea would sit and read a book while Joanne and I raced each other to see who could swim the fastest to the diving raft. She, of course, always won. Being older than me, she was much taller than me and more experienced. At the time, I think because she was the youngest in her family, I was the little sister she never had.

Back to the car, ironically, on my commute to work every morning, I pass by a car that looks just like the car the Dunleas had. It was similar to the one below and every day that I pass it, I think of them:

I have fond memories of going with Joanne and her mother to the Lincoln Inn for the $1.99 spaghetti dinner special. It wasn’t particularly good Italian, as I now know Italian food to be. It was jar sauce over spaghetti, with one meatball and came with garlic bread, all served on red and white checkered tablecloths, with old chianti bottle candle holders with dripped wax on each table. But it was good to us back then and you couldn’t beat the price. Years later, when my brother Ray bought the Lincoln Inn, I reminisced about those times and even wrote about it in another blog story, In My Little Town. Now it’s a saloon type joint with saloon doors and a cowboy theme. Nothing ever stays the same, does it?

I always looked forward to going there with them. I think that’s where my incessant need to go out to dinner started. Again, with a family of six, we never went out to eat. My mother always cooked supper and we ate at the dinner table every night - a thing that Joanne was visibly uncomfortable doing at my house. She wasn’t used to everyone sitting around the table and “passing the peas”. She preferred me to go to her house where we could make Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner. Keep in mind that Kraft was new at that time. It didn’t take us long to become experts at making it. The other thing we would make was Appian Way pizzas. It was pizza in a box. It came with pizza dough flour and sauce in a can. We would put Kraft single slice cheese on it and think it was the best thing going. You couldn’t pay me to eat that garbage today! But I suppose that this is where I acquired my love of cooking and am grateful for having had the opportunity.

I can so clearly picture everything about their house. Better than I can picture my own house. Although the duplexes have been re-sided, here are pictures of where I spent a good portion of my youth, Joanne's house in CT:

When Joanne’s sister, Chris, got married and moved to Somers, CT, I went with Joanne to her house to visit and had my very first onion dip fondue. It was all the rage of the 70’s. Lipton soup in a packet mixed with sour cream. Joanne LOVED that. She loved any and every opportunity that she got to spend with her siblings. She was the baby of the family and looked up to all of them. She idolized them. If they thought something was cool, so didn’t Joanne.

I went to my very first concert with Joanne. Chris and her husband Ray took us to see Jethro Tull at the Hartford Civic Center. I don’t remember much about the concert, and the little I do remember I can’t discuss in a blog. But it just now occurs to me that on Christmas day, when Joanne passed, my sister and my brother-in-law, Chuck, came over and spent Christmas morning with us. He came in and he hadn’t even taken his coat off yet when he was asking me if I had heard Jethro Tull’s Christmas CD. I said no and popped it in to the CD player. That’s what we listened to Christmas morning. Jethro Tull. How odd is THAT?! I haven't listened to Jethro Tull in years! Never mind on Christmas morning! Never! Tell me that isn't odd!

A lot of my life’s “first” experiences were either with Joanne or because of Joanne. Some of those firsts I won’t go into here. But we were best friends and we did what best friends do. We talked each other into doing stupid stuff. And we did an awful lot of stupid stuff.

We smoked our first cigarette together – her idea. We drank our first bottle of wine together – Boones Farm, Plum Hollow, of which I puked my guts up after – her idea (age intentionally left out!). We kissed our first boyfriends in her bedroom at her house while her mother was at work – her idea (again, you don’t need to know how old we were when that happened. For my kids' sake, let’s just say I was 35.). We hitchhiked and almost got killed – her id…no, I’m not sure whose idea that was. But that’s another blog story that you can read about by clicking here.

She was older than me by two years, and therefore she got her period first. I grew up in the age when getting your period wasn’t discussed with your parents. My mother certainly didn’t tell me anything. That wouldn’t have been proper. “Oh no, I can’t” my mother would say in her English accent. It wasn’t explained to me what a period was. Sitting here today with my daughter Rachel, who is 10 and on the cusp of puberty, with American Girl book in hand, reading it to her and asking her if she has any questions about what a period is, etc., it occurred to me that times have certainly changed. Here I am discussing body functions with my daughter. I never talked with my mother about such things, to this day, and I still wouldn’t want to. Ha! During this very important discussion that I was having with my daughter, it occurred to me that everything I knew about periods and menstruating and how to put a tampon in, was all learned from my friend Joanne. Joanne was the one who told me there was such a thing as a tampon. And thank God she did. I’d still be wearing pads today probably! (Too much information? Sorry.)

Ok, so Joanne and I did everything together. Then one day, we had a fight. I can’t remember what it was about. Something stupid I’m sure. All I know is we stopped talking for about a year. Then I ran into her at the Palace Twin theaters in downtown Norwich. She was with Beth Fratoni. Grrr. I hated Beth Fratoni. She lived up the street from me. Her mother and Joanne’s mother were friends. I always got the sense that Rita, no Marie, no Marie Rita, no Mrs. Dunlea, wanted Joanne to hang around with Beth and wanted them to be best friends. I guess I can see it. What wasn’t there to like about Beth. She was pretty, active in school, blah, blah, blah. I, on the other hand, was shy. I never said two words when I went to Joanne’s house. I was easily intimidated and certainly wasn’t confident. But Beth Fratoni was confident. Now that I’ve grown up, I guess I can understand it. But the thing was, Beth was boring. Ever meet people that you have things in common with and everything points to the fact that you should be friends, but they’re just so damn boring that when you’re with them, you want to shoot yourself in the head? Yeah, I think Beth was like that for Joanne. After we met up with each other at the theater after a year of not talking, Joanne called me on the phone a week or two later and we talked like a year hadn’t gone by. We were back to being friends again just like that. She was sorry and remorseful for whatever she had done. Of course, I can say that now because, 1) this is my blog and I can say whatever I want and 2) she can’t refute it now can she. (I’m sure she’s up there right now cursing me out.) Nah, we never apologized to each other for anything. We just continued on.

We created a song together that was the fruit of our boredom in my room. I shared a room with my sister and she had a poem that she hung on the wall. Joanne and I worked hard at putting the words to a tune, harmonizing with each other, and secretly pretending that we were discovered and were on stage singing our big hit. Here is the poem.

I do my thing,
And you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you,
And I am I,
And if by chance we find each other,
It's beautiful.

- Frederick E. Perl

You have no idea how many times we rehearsed singing that with hair brushes in hand in front of the vanity mirror in my room. The words stand true. And although you can't hear the tune that we put those lyrics to, I personally can't "read" those lines or type those words without hearing the tune. I can only sing them in the manner that we put them to music. The tune and how we held the notes in certain places are etched into my brain. She would indubitably remember this!

Joanne and I walked everywhere together. Soon after we met, the Dunleas had moved from Greenville to the Hamilton Street projects. After that, we lived 1.1 miles apart and we would meet halfway at Mr. Bigs, a department store that was in Norwich. If we had money, we would go in and order a soda and fries at the counter. Sometimes if we had a lot of money, we would walk to downtown Norwich to D’Elia’s grinder shop and split a ham grinder. We loved to eat. I’m not sure we had all that much in common except that we both liked the finer things in life. And by finer things in life, I mean, of course, Jolly Rancher watermelon candies! Somehow through the years they have changed the recipe and the Jolly Rancher watermelon candies are not the same as they were back then. Now they are the consistency of hard candy. If you try to bite into it, the candy will break apart. Years ago, if you tried to bite into one, it would stick to your teeth but yet still maintain its hardness. A great filling remover. Yup, the finer things in life. And pistachio nuts. She once enticed me to go with her to her Aunt Julie’s house in Massachusetts under the guise of “She has pistachios! The good kind…the red ones!” How could I pass that up?

Did I never get fed in my house or what?

Here’s a story that happened on the day I found out about Joanne’s passing. This is another one of those strange, but true, stories:

Going back to when we were probably 12/14 years old. Every chance we got, we would go to Charlie’s Supermarket near her house and buy Doritos Nacho Cheese chips. They had just come on the market and we thought they were the best thing since sliced bread. Every time we had money in our pockets, we either bought Doritos or Jolly Rancher watermelon candies. But Doritos were THE thing back then. Hard to imagine now, since they are everywhere now and in all kinds of different varieties. But back then, there were only the Doritos Nacho Cheese flavored ones. We would devour an entire bag in one sitting. Our fingertips would be orange for days! (Hey, we didn't have much in those days. This was our only source of entertainment.)

Flash forward to this week, the same day I found out the news about Joanne’s passing, an hour later, I was in a Subway Sandwich Shop with my 10 year old daughter. We were standing there ordering our sandwiches and she asked me if she could substitute the apples that come with the kids meal for something else. I said that the store probably wouldn't let her do it. Mostly I told her that because I didn’t want to be bothered because I was deep in thought about the news I just received and just didn't want the aggravation of asking the question to the sandwich maker. She could eat the apples. It wouldn’t kill her. But then I snapped back into reality and thought, I should just ask. So I did and the girl behind the counter said she could substitute. My daughter, having no knowledge of Joanne’s passing, having no knowledge of Joanne and I's fetish for Doritos, having several choices of chips to choose from, (Fritos, Lays potato chips, etc.), who rarely chooses Doritos as a snack, grabbed a bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese chips off the shelf and said, "I want these". And it wasn’t until then that I thought of just how many times Joanne and I ate those when we were young. I instantly got teary eyed. I joined my daughter in eating her Doritos as my own little way of paying homage to Joanne.

Coincidence that this and the Jethro Tull thing happened? I think not.

Joanne’s life was not easy. She had witnessed her parents getting divorced and her mother remarrying. Both Joanne’s father and my father liked to drink. It was yet another thing we had in common. Joanne’s father was a bartender and due to the occupational hazard of serving alcohol every night, he became an alcoholic. Or maybe he got a job as a bartender because he was an alcoholic. I’m not sure which came first. But shortly after Joanne moved to Florida with her mother, her father, in his early to mid 40’s, passed away from the disease. I hadn’t seen Joanne for a few years and when she came to CT for the funeral, I went to it, but we didn’t speak. It was awkward and we were still too young to know how to handle those types of life’s events. I just didn’t know what to say. But I was there if she needed to talk. She never spoke to me about it, but I know that this was her first major loss of many that she would have to endure in her life.

The point of this blog is not to air all Joanne’s dirty laundry now that she is gone. I won’t do that because I respect her privacy. But I will say that she was faced with many challenges in her life – the loss of her brother Mike, who also lost his life in his 40’s; the loss of her son Lucas, who passed away this year as well, who was only 30. She endured bad relationships and divorces, etc. She wasn’t without life’s struggles. And I believe her inability to cope with the tragedies in her life ultimately caused her demise. She passed away due to a medical condition, but a medical condition that was acerbated and compounded by the relentless losses she had to contend with and coping the only way she knew how; by following the only examples that had been set for her; by drowning her sorrows. And the empathetic side of me doesn’t blame her for doing so. I know too much to pass judgement on her. Given the same set of circumstances, my outcome may have been the same.

My Kaneclusions: Although Jo, as she liked to call herself when we were young, and I were only friends for such a brief period of time, about 10 years, she and her family shaped so many things in my life. So many of my blog stories have Joanne in them, not by name, but if she were alive and read them, she would say, “Hey, that was me!”

It makes me sad to think that I have all these memories of the things we did and it’s extremely probable that she didn’t remember any of them. In speaking with her daughter, she told me that Joanne didn’t speak about her past or her childhood much to her kids. I find that to be sad.

With her passing, I no longer have that person that I grew up with that can verify and commiserate with me on the things that happened. My memories are truly just my own now.

Although we weren’t friends in our adult lives for various reasons, she made an impact on my life that will never be forgotten. I have so many memories of things we did together. It’s crazy what comes back to you when someone passes away. I haven’t thought about these things in years. But now they are in the forefront of my mind. And I can honestly say, with some of the memories I have, we were both lucky to have survived as long as we did.

Unfortunately, this is the second childhood friend that I have lost this year. The first one caused me a world of aggravation at the end of her life and I was angry with her for doing so. But when I found out she died, I was surprisingly moved. In both cases, it’s not the adults that these women became that I miss. Far from it. But it’s losing those close childhood friends that somehow leave an empty hole in one’s heart. Remembering the children that they were instead of the adults they became. I think sometimes facebook is the root of all evil. Reconnecting with people in your past can be detrimental. Some things are best left in the past.

I am convinced that the people surrounding me don’t understand that in both cases, this was a loss for me. Relationships aren’t founded purely on the status of where you left them, but rather on the blocks of time and events that lead you from the start to that end. Just because I wasn’t friends with these women in years, doesn’t mean that the experiences I had with them as kids simply went away.

With the passing of Joanne, a little bit of my childhood was ripped away and maybe others can’t understand that. Our sisters are still alive and still friends. It seems to me that they, if anyone, should understand what this would mean to me. But they don’t. To no fault of their own. Their best childhood friend is still alive and I suppose they can’t relate until it happens to them.

As much as I joke about Mrs. Dunlea, (Note: She is now, and has been for years now, Mrs. Caldwell, she will always be Mrs. Dunlea to me) I have fond memories of all the times she took us places and all the times she let me sleep over at her house. I am particularly grateful for the time Joanne and I got home after midnight with no reasonable explanation and she never called my mother to rat on me. In those moments, I like to think to myself that maybe she didn’t dislike me…or at least, not all that much.

I could write an entire book about this one family that was so intertwined with my family through my childhood. Just the experiences Joanne and I had with our sisters is a novel. But this isn't about them. It's about Joanne.

My heart goes out to Marie Rita Dunlea Caldwell who has been faced with having to bury not one, but two of her children; her husband, and her grandson. Nobody should have to endure all of that.

And to Joanne's surviving sisters, Kathy and Chris, who have had to endure burying their father, their brother, their step father, their nephew, and now their sister, nobody deserves that amount of grief in one lifetime. As much as it is all part of life, my prayer to God is for Him to ease up on them and let them get through their own lifes circumstances without tragedy for a while.

As much as my mother was a fantastic cook and had supper on the table every night, I always, ALWAYS, chose to eat at Joanne’s, even if it was just Kraft Mac and Cheese. Joanne had a way of making everything sound good. She was influential in my life and could talk me into anything. Having survived them all, I can say that I don’t regret any of those things. Some were good experiences and some were not so healthy. And when we parted ways, it seems as though I grew up and grew out of the things we did as kids. But Joanne, it seems, kept the party going. And I would have been supportive of that had it not ultimately killed her.

I particularly feel bad for her two sons and daughter who are now faced with reliving the sadness of their mother’s passing every year on Christmas Day. I hope they can somehow find a way in the years to come to find the happiness that the day should bring. She will never be forgotten and lives on through them and their children.

I believe the best Christmas gift Joanne could have received this year was to be able to see her son, Lucas, her brother, Mike, and her Dad, in the afterlife. It’s not sad when you think of it in the terms of, has there ever been such a greater gift granted to one? Certainly beats a toaster! I picture them all standing there in Heaven, waiting at the pearly gates, holding a cold brewsky for her that has her name written on it. Not talking to someone in 25 years doesn’t change the fact that, as her best friend, I know that nothing would make her happier.

So cheers to you, Jo! If you’re watching me from above, can you point me in the direction of finding some oldtime Jolly Ranchers!?!

Oh, and keep a cold one on ice for me!


Dianne said...

I had a best friend as a kid that I have not seen or heard from in years and probably never will. Still, we shared a history and I can relate to what you are saying. Even if you don't see each other, you know that someone else out there knows where the bodies are buried so to speak. She can corroborate your childhood. It's almost like a piece of your childhood disappears with her. Thank goodness we have memories. I am sorry for your loss.

Laurie said...

I'm so sorry to hear of her passing. I saw the pics of when she lived on Hamilton Ave. They brought back so many memories. My sister who passed also lived in the projects. For some reason when you mentioned that her father was a mailman it sort of rang a bell. What street did they live on? My sis lived on Donahue Dr.

USA said...

We all miss Joanne, she was our cousin but after moving to Florida, we lost touch. I laughed at her singing, I can remember the words to a so called "song" that we made up at a family picnic, it started with "If there were flowers in the air".
Thanks for the memory

Sharon Kane said...

Dear USA,
I am sorry for the loss of your cousin. Were you a cousin on her mother's or father's side? I just remembered some of her father's side that I forgot to mention. Her Uncle Denny was her favorite.

Her singing...too bad American Idol wasn't around when we were kids. Joanne would have certainly tried out if it had.

Thanks for reading!