Monday, September 29, 2008
Lenore and Helen
Lenore is my mother. Helen is my friend Sharon's mother. This is the story of the friendship between Lenore and Helen. (Pictured above is a picture of me, Sharon, Helen and Lenore.)
When I came into the world, Helen lived a few doors away. Lenore and Helen each had 3 kids who were all the same age. Sharon and I were the youngest. Before Sharon and I came into this life, Lenore had two girls and a boy - one girl died as an infant. And Helen had two boys. I was born on a July day, when Helen was 6 months pregnant. Helen accused Lenore of taking the last girl, but then she gave birth to Sharon. Sharon and I became friends as soon as she was born.
Lenore and Helen had known each other in high school, but when they ended up as neighbors is when the friendship really blossomed. They were like 2 peas in a pod. They were in the mother singers group at the elementary school. They played mahj jong (just known as "mahj") together with some other neighbors. But mostly, they just liked to hang out.
Sharon's oldest brother married my hubby's sister. Our lives became so intertwined. Helen used to ask me if I ever could have imagined that Sharon and I would share the same nephews.
One of our favorite stories is how Lenore and Helen used to go to Wendy's together. They split the $1 order of chicken nuggets. They ordered water to drink, with lemon. Sharon tells me they brought their own packets of dried tea. This was a fun outing for them.
Helen's son tells me they used to shop at the grocery store together and share the big items, like watermelons.
Years ago, Helen got sick. It took a while before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When Sharon told me the diagnosis, I could not bring myself to call Helen. I could not imagine having that conversation with her. So I didn't. After a while, she asked Sharon why I hadn't called her. So I finally made that call, and we both cried, and she told me she was just sad about leaving her kids behind.
She was treated with chemotherapy. She felt lousy, but Helen and Lenore continued to go out together every day. Maybe a trip to Marcs, maybe a trip to a department store. They found great joy in discovering bargains. Helen had always struggled with her weight, and with the cancer, she got very thin. She told me she had wanted to be thin all her life, and now that she was finally thin, she would give that up in a minute to get her health back. I hated to look at her at birthday parties - when everyone was singing Happy Birthday, she had tears in her eyes; she never knew which birthday was going to be the last.
Helen's kids knew she would love to see Phantom of the Opera, and they bought a pair of tickets. They assumed Helen would see the show with her husband. But Helen had other plans. She took Lenore, cause she knew that not only would Lenore love the show, but they would have a great time seeing it together. And Helen loved to talk about the day she and Lenore saw Phantom together.
Sharon told me Helen knew she wouldn't see her grandkids through high school, but it was her goal to see her youngest grandchild, Linda, finish kindergarten. She lasted over 2 years. Toward the end, she was at Mt Sinai Hospital and then transferred to the Cleveland Clinic. Our family was about to take a trip up to our cottage in Michigan. I called Helen at the Clinic to tell her goodbye because when someone is that sick, you just never know. Honestly, though, she never seemed that sick to me. During that call, she said "I think this is it. I'm not going to leave the hospital." I found that hard to believe, cause Helen always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude. She was a fun lady, and I was not prepared to accept the end. Our family took our trip up to Michigan. About 5 days into the trip, a neighbor came over to tell us that Helen was very ill. We made plans to get ready to come home. We got a call later that evening that she had passed away. We packed up the car early the next morning and took the long drive home, to arrive just in time for the funeral. It was two months after Linda's graduation from Kindergarten.
I think it is very rare to find that good friend who you are totally comfortable with; who you can call and say let's go out and do this and know this person will be immediately ready. And you're on the same timetable; you're never thinking your friend is taking too long or hurrying you too much. You are on the same wavelength. Lenore and Helen were on that same wavelength. Lenore had other friends, but not as special as Helen. When you lose a friend like that, it is a very tough adjustment to make, and life is never the same. Lenore and Helen had that special bond, and while the loss to Lenore was great, she knew she was lucky to have had Helen in her life all those years.