"A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same." Elbert Hubbard
Ten years ago this week, I lost three of my dearest friends within five days of one another. Each was in his/her early 50s. Each had cancer.
|Doug and I on his 40th birthday|
The first to go was my friend Doug. He died ten years ago yesterday of colon cancer. He was and still is the funniest person I have ever known. Friends since high school, we hung with the same crowd in the parking lot of a coffee shop known as Dyles. We christened ourselves "the Dyles gang" although we weren't a gang, per se, just a group of teenagers with similar interests: drinking, smoking cigarettes and pot, going to the beach, going to any party we might hear about. The friendships began for some of us as early as junior high and are still going strong. Doug, who began his tenure in the group as a slightly built, straight man to his overweight sidekick nicknamed "Wally", eventually became the king of one-liners & witty responses. He told anecdotes and, like Jerry Seinfeld, most were based on truth; those we'd experienced and those he embellished. He was so funny he should have done stand-up. I think it was his secret passion. My life was never so hilarious as when portrayed by this guy. He met the love of his life in his early twenties. They married, had children and were supposed to live happily ever after. Ten years after his passing, she's still alone and in love with him.
|Mazatlan ca 1984 or 85|
the way I like to remember Doug, beer in hand
The second loss came the next day when my best friend's sister, Daria, died of breast cancer. She and Doug knew one another and surprisingly were diagnosed with their respective cancers within weeks of one another. Each fought their illness for five long years. Daria comes from a medical family and she explored every available avenue, including, finally, a bone marrow transplant from her doctor brother. She was a free spirit. Unlike her three siblings, she did not follow the dictates laid out by her rigid father. She was the only one to smoke before she was 21, forgoing the $1000 he promised each child if they made it. She moved to Maui in her early twenties, lived at the beach, taught school, bartended and had a very cool life. She married later than most, meeting her dream man in her mid-thirties. After many years of shuttling between Maui and Lake Tahoe, where she was a black jack dealer, she settled for a more conventional life with her handsome, boyish husband, moving to a tiny town in Wisconsin to live on his family farm and teach school. She was unconventional to the end and I picture her turning the tiny town in which she passed her final years on its ear with her beautiful brave ways. I consider myself privileged to have spoken with her numerous times before she was too weak to talk. Her death left a void in that family that can never be filled.
|Maui, ca 1980 Dari & her then BF|
The third loss was two days after Daria's. My very close friend, Pat, whom I met and worked with in my mid twenties, was one of the kindest, gentlest most thoughtful people I've known. She was a great listener. When we first met, I was getting divorced; then I was dating (all the wrong men); then I was partying too much; then I was diagnosed with epilepsy; then I was in love and so on. Pat listened to all the stories with great understanding and humor. She was married to her soul mate, Randy, with whom she's grown up just outside Milwaukee. I know she lived vicariously through many of us because we were "out there" and she was not. But I never detected anything but interest and her advice was wise beyond her years. Pat and Randy were family to me back in those days. Pat had a wonderful gift. She never forgot a birthday. I never failed to receive a beautiful card and I looked forward to those cards because I knew, wherever I was living, she'd send one. She was beautiful inside and out. When she and her wonderful husband, finally left San Diego to return to their families and make a home in Milwaukee, my husband and I threw a wonderful large going away party for them. Everyone in San Diego radio and TV came because everyone loved Pat. She had a way of making me feel like I was brave and funny. I was a better person seen through her eyes.
|Randy & Pat ca 1984|
Old Towne Mexican Café
Three friends. Five days. Ten years ago. It seems as if it were yesterday.