I have a few really OLD friends. Or should I call them long-lasting. I met Kate Sullivan in high school. She was two years ahead of me. I knew her sister, Frani, better. Fran was in my class. But still, I knew Kate…we were in a lot of the same extra curricular activities and it was a small school. Kate graduated and became a Sister of St. Joseph. Two years later, I did the same and we reconnected. Then several years later we ended up in the same convent….the mother house..a gigantic old building in Springfield where the youngest ones (us) slept on the top floor in a dorm.
Kate, Kathy Rooney and I all taught first grade at different parochial schools in the area. I had 37 kids in my class. And that seemed “do-able” because Kate had 45. We thought Kathy had it ridiculously easy…only 27 kids. That year I put on “Charlie Brown Christmas” with my class. I remember it so well. Snoopy’s doghouse had blinking Christmas lights thanks to Snoopy’s dad, Guy Peznola. “Easy for you to do,” Kate said, “you only have 37 kids.”
That was also the year I went to Kate’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving. My own family was going to be in Virginia with my sister, Eileen, and there wasn’t room in the car for me. I remember how upset I was …thought I was going to have to stay with the old nuns for Thanksgiving. Kate just brought me along…told me there were so many kids at her house, it wouldn’t make any difference.
Several years later I left the convent, met Jerry, got married and had a couple kids. Kate stayed a lot longer, became a Clinical Pastoral Minister (hospital chaplain) and later head of a program training other pastoral ministers. In 1980, Kate was a chaplain at Providence Hospital in Holyoke and was in the delivery room with Jerry and me when Erin was born.
The years flew by. We stayed in Massachusetts. Kate moved to the mid-west and eventually ended up in Milwaukee. We sort of kept in touch until we didn’t.
Fast forward about twenty years or so. Jerry decides it’s time to send out Christmas cards again. It was a year when we had a great family picture. He orders a bunch and I start going through my address book and send one to Kate not even knowing if she was still at that address in Milwaukee any more.
She was and we reconnected. She came to visit. She fell in love with Venice. And now she’s a regular snowbird, living on the island.
She’s a good friend. She makes me laugh. And when I was sick she sent a card almost every single week. (She loves cards) She made me a gorgeous prayer shawl…aquamarine and soft blues..the color of the sea.
Usually on our birthdays (both in April) we go kayaking or paddle boarding…kind of a tradition since she started coming to Venice. But for my birthday, this year, I told her what I really wanted to do was go shopping (me, who hates shopping) I needed a Mother of the Groom dress and had to have someone with me. I wouldn’t dare try to pick one out for myself.
So we headed for the shops on Venice Ave, pretty pricey places but I figured we’d start there and then move on to other places. We walked into the first shop and I saw a perfectly acceptable dress, tried it on and said, “Okay, I’m done.” Kate ignored me and kept looking through the racks until she found THE dress…Try this one on, she says.
Are you crazy, says I. It’s $365.
Try it on anyway, says Kate.
And I do. And I love it. BUT $365???? Are you kidding me?
Still I’m deciding that maybe I can have it set aside and if we don’t find anything else, I’ll buy it. It’s only money, right?
That’s when Kate hears the saleswoman telling another customer, “The dresses on those two racks are on sale.”
Wait, she says, my friend’s dress came off that rack. How much is it?
The saleswoman looks at my dress…$40, she says.
$40???? Needless to say, I bought it on the spot.
And Kate, the savvy shopper, tries to get it for even less. Excuse me, she says to the clerk, it’s says “three pieces” and there’s only two. Was there a jacket that went with this?
There was, says the clerk.
So, since the jacket is missing, maybe it should be $30?
Shut up, Kate, I hiss. $40 is awesome.
And I buy it (for $40) and we head out of the store.
And I wore it for Sean’s wedding and I’ll wear it for every wedding I go to for the next twenty years.
I called Kate the day after the wedding…first to tell her some bad news about a mutual friend who had had a stroke…and second to tell her the dress was perfect.
And then we came home from California. I emailed her a couple times during the week…looking for updates on our friend, Winnie, and on her sister, Frani, who had just had surgery (ovarian cancer) No answer. Weird, she usually responds fairly quickly.
Then, on Tuesday night, just before I went to bed I checked my Facebook…a photo of Kate and her sister Brenda…Kate in a hospital gown.
At first I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing. Frani was the one who was sick, not Kate. And what’s Brenda doing there? I messaged her sister…What’s going on?
Brenda messaged back…call me.
I called…A brain tumor…glioblastoma…Very serious, very scary. She hadn’t been feeling terrific but never dreamed it was serious until last Sunday when she couldn’t function and was rushed to the hospital.
I talked to Kate yesterday…She’s having surgery tomorrow and is frightened. This kind of cancer is treatable but not curable. Ted Kennedy died of glioblastoma. So did a friend of hers. It’s a vicious cancer…
So please pray for my dear friend. This has totally knocked me for a loop. Maybe it’s the straw that broke this camel’s back…too many friends are sick, too many people are getting hit.
Be well…and enjoy every minute of every day…