is for Nancy.
When Nancy and Donna’s family moved into the house on the corner across the street from us, Nancy was ten, Donna and my sister, Gaynl, were nine, and I was eleven. We became fast friends.
A “Tomboy,” Nancy was rough and tumble, loud, good at sports, and the best friend you could want. We shared unforgettable childhood adventures. We built forts down by the creek and in the field behind her house. We played hide and seek, kick the can, and flies are up. We rode bikes. We picked prunes in the summer to earn money for school clothes.
Nancy was wild about Elvis, adored Roger Smith of 77 Sunset Strip, and idolized the daddy of little girls she babysat who she described as the spit and image of Roger Smith. In high school, Nancy met and fell in love with a boy named Steve.
Nancy was an excellent student. She became a registered nurse. Later, she trained at Stanford to become a physician’s assistant.
As she came up the aisle of the church with her father on her wedding day, she was beautiful and so happy. I wept.
Nancy and Steve moved away and I did not see her often. Years later, I learned that they divorced.
The saddest news came ten years ago when Donna told me that Nancy’s son went to Nancy’s house because she hadn’t answered the phone when he called. He found her in bed. She had been dead for several hours.
It is good to have friends. Childhood friends are better. And childhood friends when old and dear are best. Old friends are important because they share a common history with us. They remind us of who we are and where we came from. Losing an old friend is like losing a part of oneself. But, as William Johnson Cory tells us, our friends live on in our memories of them.
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead;
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed;
I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
—“Heraclitus”, by William Johnson Cory, 1823-92