We knew all the same people, went to the same schools, had the same teachers, even rode our bikes on the same roads. Yet we never knew each other until 20 years ago when I started at the Post Office.
I had two kids under two when I started. She trained me, pregnant with her third child, how to deliver mail from the center of the car. That's how we delivered mail back then. We became friends. The kids grew. We'd get together for ice cream, talk about the guys she was dating, and my Hubs before he was the hubs. We went on a girls weekend, shopped every tiny store on Nantucket, drank amaretto at the bar, and talked about stupid things from our childhood. She was a bit wild, often lost. I was never the friend who told her what she wanted to hear, only what she needed to hear. Her mom loved that about me. She thought we should spend more time together. Our friendship was off an on because of this honesty, sometimes it was just what she needed, sometimes it was not. She lovingly called me Momma Buzzkill.
She was the first one to come to me when they boy's father died.
She finally met a decent man and her life settled in. He balanced her. She had resigned herself to never getting married. She was okay with that. They were together seven years before they got engaged. Their wedding day was our (The Hubs and my) 7th anniversary. Two weeks before he had a massive heart attack. She joked that if he really didn't want to get married he could have just said so. He recovered, they released him the morning of their wedding, and they were married in a small backyard ceremony.
They spent some time blending their lives together. His kids and home from his previous marriage. Her life, home and kids from her previous life. It was a lot. Sadly there was not enough time. He passed away a few weeks before their first anniversary. She was a widow at 45.
The next three years were challenging. She struggled. She eventually transferred to a satellite office, back to where we both started. We had talked a lot about if it was the right move for her. In the end, she said it felt like she had finally come home, like it was the first good thing in a long time. We met up off and on, talked when we could. I don't think anyone knew the entire story, ever. Sometimes it was hard to talk with her, her emotions would run high, she'd refuse to listen to reason, and this Momma Buzzkill could only do so much reality before phone calls became texts, or touching base days later. On rare days though, the old her would resurface. She would call me at work, with a snicker, and say "Is it there yet?" And of course, it was. She would start a rumor in an office ten miles away, and we'd take bets on how fast it would take for it to get from one office to the other. Our rumor mill is worse than middle school, usually taking less than 10 minutes, no matter how outlandish it was.
So it came as no surprise when I started hearing the rumors that things were not going well at work. I'd call her, she'd not answer. I'd text, and she'd treat it like a joke. Except when it wasn't. She had spiraled down the rabbit hole much further than anyone had realized. I begged her to meet with me, sign the papers, and I'd do the rest. Others tried as well. Nothing worked, and eventually a 20 year career was lost. No retirement. No pension. No Insurance.
Keeping in touch was harder after that. She called me when her Youngest graduated Highs School. She called to let me know she was going to be a grandma again. She called last month when she was struggling with what would have been her 3rd anniversary. She was talking about downsizing, selling the house and living simpler.
Two weeks ago I found out she was on life support. In the hospital for something else, she had a heart attack. She went without oxygen to her brain for 25 minutes, and while there was 10% function early on, later they found none. We were under the impression that they were just waiting on one more test before deciding what to do. The prognosis was not good. She would need a miracle, and even then she'd never be herself again. The next day there was much speculation. About an hour later someone said they heard she had passed.
We all cried.
Two hours later someone called the hospital only to find out she was in fact, still on life support.
I could hear her words echoed in my head Is It There Yet??? and then her one of a kind chuckle. Classic Nettie, she was screwing with us from the in between.
Well played, my friend, well played.
Update: She had been taken off life support and was breathing on her own. While she had some indications that she was responding to outside stimuli, she eventually gave in and crossed over to be with her husband. In the end, it was on her terms, which, is the way she always had to have things.