Friday, July 30, 2010

An Ode to Friendship

There are a few people in our lives who are there for the long haul. They are people with whom we have a shared history (whether we like it or not). Some of these people are familial - brothers or sisters, special aunts or uncles - but there are a select few who can be dubbed Friends for Life.

Some of you may be quite blessed and say you have a huge group of these incredible people surrounding you. A group that has and always will support each and every one of your ups and downs. My husband and I have but a handful of these treasures between us. I am not complaining. I am grateful for each one of these precious gems who've made my life richer. There have been countless friends who've bowed in and out of my life and I've tried to think of them as pieces of a giant puzzle - ones which no matter how jagged - have taught me to love and be a better person.

I am thinking of friendship this morning as my husband and I were lucky enough this week to have one such family grace us with their presence. It's a family with whom we have a shared past, one that brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

Actually, it's a friendship I am lucky enough to have married into. In a nutshell, my husband befriended another young engineering student while in college here in Gainesville. My beloved's polar opposite, to be honest. Where my spouse is somewhat reserved and introverted, this character was (and is) full of life. A jovial sort who never meets a stranger and when he does he buys him a beer (or a crown and coke, if he really likes him).

When I watch the two of them together I laugh (or cry, thinking I may end up having to bail them both out of jail). They are two sides of the same coin and to me I don't think one could ever survive without the other. They share a bond now more than two decades old. One that was sealed early on when my beloved and I witnessed the birth of his first child the same weekend we were engaged. In a word, this man and his family are special.

That friend's baby is now starting her second year of college and my husband and I love her and her brother as our own. And their mom? Well, let's just say we don't even need words to communicate the love and respect we have. They are FAMILY. They are our heart.

We watched their babies grow up. We tailgated at Gator football games. We celebrated anniversaries and milestones in each other's lives. We even moved to the same town and for a few short months were part of eachother's daily lives. But destiny can be cruel and my husband's college buddy had to move his brood to Nebraska and we were meant to come full circle back to where it all started, in Gainesville.

Our world changed. No more tailgating. No more parties for no reason. We were at a loss. But, that loss reminds us what we have - Friends for Life. And no matter where they are, or where we are, we are one and always will be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Looks can be deceiving

There's a piece of my heart that belongs to a sandy seashore along the Florida Panhandle. It's nothing overtly special, this plot of beach just west of Panama City and east of Destin. Yes, it's sugary white. Yes, the water is an emerald shade only captured by the finest of semi precious stones. But, it's not infamous, like Miami's South Beach, or a playground for the rich and famous, like the French Riviera. In fact, there are many who spitefully claim this slice of heaven is 'The Redneck Riviera.'

To me, labels do not matter. This sacred spot, where the sea meets the sand, is where I found myself. My true self. The one who was battered and bruised after years of slaving in a professional fog, at a loss of what to do and where to go next. It's the shoreline I paced many early mornings with my beloved father at my side discussing the future and what great things I would write, what fine projects I would complete.

It's been more than five years since my dearest Daddy passed on, and this slice of shoreline is all I have left - besides memories of an incredibly centered man in a floppy straw hat with a quick, easy smile.

My sacred space by the sea had supposedly be 'spared' thus far of the wrath of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Despite the excessively positive news updates cajoling visitors to pristine beaches, I prepared myself for the worst when I visited my mom last week.

At first, all seemed normal. Visitors dotted the beach with colorful umbrellas, sailed freely along the shoreline and even took to the crystal clear sky by parasail. But something was wrong, dreadfully wrong. Every few minutes a helicopter would buzz the beach, or a jeep took to the sand, rushing this way and that. Then there were the men in mirrored sunglasses donning blue plastic gloves and picking up tiny objects off the shoreline, carefully placing them in ziploc baggies. But it was the couple of cammo clad military men that made me shiver, though. It felt like a war zone, plain and simple.

My son wouldn't swim. Not one time. He stood on the shore with his hands on his hips surveying the damage. What damage? There were no balls of oil. No dead sealife to prove what we've done to the Gulf. It was eerily devoid of damage.

In some ways it was worse, the not knowing what's out there. The not knowing when we will pay the price here in the Panhandle for our sins to Mother Nature.

My mom's been waiting since April for heaven to fall. For the Gulf she so loves to be swallowed up by darkness. And she'll wait some more. We know what's ahead as we watch the black muck run its course via satellite tv.

My beloved Gulf will continue to suffer, but I will return to her sacred shores. For she has saved me more than once in my life and it will be my turn to do for her the same.