In memory of a BFF

The late afternoon sun enhanced the crimsons, yellows and golds clinging to the last of Indian Summer.

“We should be viewing these colors in Vermont,”I say, looking out the fifth-floor hospital window and the New Britain streets below.

I know Joan can’t hear me. Does that make it less difficult to say out loud what I am thinking? That at another time the four of us would be riding along a winding country back road, Sherrill driving and Donna up front. As always, Joan and me in the back seat.

I leave the window and sit down by the bed. As the morphine drip was steadily increased, her consciousness decreased and now she no longer even whispers. It happened quickly. Less than a month after Joan signed on to in-home hospice, she was rushed to the hospital’s emergency room and admitted.

She and I should have gone trick-or-treating, a thought that was incongruous to this place in time my sane mind comprehends. But in hindsight? Oh yes, it is 20/20. We should have done it long before that pain in her shoulder started. Why didn’t we do more of what we did as kids? Had we become grownups too quickly? How did we forget to be children? Why do we remember after it is too late?

At least we did ring doorbells and run. We were in our 40s, 20 years younger than today, and able to crouch down and hide in the bushes in front of the target house.

I smile to think about that night Joan had dinner with me and my three teenagers and the two of us probably drank too much wine. We told the kids about the things we did in our neighborhood – the summer lemonade stands and the annual carnivals we put on in the Greene’s back yard, the all-day hikes and ice skating on Budney’s Pond. Fall was the best time. Fall, when the sun set early and doorbells were for ringing and running.

The kids dared us to do it. They egged us on saying we could ring the next door neighbor’s bell so if we got caught they would just laugh it off and not call the police. Joan and I exchanged looks. We would be having none of that. If we were going to show this generation a thing or two about ringing doorbells and running, we would ring the doorbell five houses down where it was known the owners did not take kindly to that sort of thing. If they caught us, the cops would most certainly be involved. Probably get a RWI.

Joan and I became best friends when I was 11 and she was 10 — long before BFF became a fashion statement hanging from necklaces and written across T-shirts, as if to be best friends forever has to be spelled out.

Joan and I just always knew.

The summer her oldest brother Bob bought her a 24-inch blue two wheeler, she rode it, all smiles, into our neighborhood. No one could ride it, that’s what he told her, she said.

“Can I?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“How come?”

“Because my brother, Bob, said so.”

Didn’t matter. We still knew.

I kiss Joan’s cheek and squeeze her hand. Fifty-three years BFF.

In memory of Joan Carol Petano

May 12, 1945-October 24, 2008



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