Coffee in One Hand, a Doob in the Other
Sunday morning and I’m up at sunrise, with my sister Sue heavy on my mind. How she loved our road trips, which found us driving as the sun peeked over the horizon. Coffee in one hand and a doob in the other. I should tell you by the time we reached our 50's I didn't partake. I'll let you figure out if I mean the coffee or the pot.
Suzy had one helluva smile. I sometimes thought the sun must be jealous because it couldn’t compete with the beautiful light shining in her eyes. No matter how hard life beat her down, and it did so often, she came back with the same joy-filled smile, and a twinkle of mirth in her eye. She passed away a little more than a month ago. Suzy's smile won't be coming back this time.
The day I received the news of her passing is a permanent scar on my memory...
I answered the phone, even though I didn’t recognize the number. It was Sue’s friend McGee. She’s the sweetie that comes up to Orlando every so often with my sister Sue to visit.
From the tone of voice at her greeting, I knew something was wrong. Mimi McGee sounded as if she’d been crying. Fearful, I asked, “What’s up?”
She could have been speaking Mandarin. The sounds she was making made no sense.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
My brain finally allowed me to comprehend the language. Yes, she spoke English. She said two words. But they couldn’t be right. My sister under the skin, friends since the age of four, was dead? She must be speaking about another Suzy.
“Are you there? Honey, talk to me.”
This had to be one of Suzy’s stupid jokes. We had a falling out the last time we’d seen each other, but we had spoken on the phone since then. She must be behind this absurdity.
“Honey, sweetie, talk to me. Are you okay?”
I realized I wasn’t breathing. I sucked in air as if I’d been punched in the gut. My voice came out much louder than I’d intended. “Is this some kind of sick, fucking joke?”
“No, baby, it’s not. Suzy’s dead.”
I pictured Suzy standing behind McGee, with a triumphant grin on her face. She got me this time, although this was sadistic, even by her standards. My cheeks were wet with tears as my anger flared.
“Tell me this is a sick joke!” I shouted.
McGee’s voice cracked as she said, “I wish I could. It’s not a joke.”
“No, no, no." I began to pace, touching every solid object I passed to confirm this wasn't a nightmare and I might still be in bed sleeping. "Tell me this ISN’T a prank because this would be one fucking sick joke.”
“It’s not a JOKE. Jesus Christ! I wish I was there. I’m so sorry to have to tell you this on the phone.”
I lived three hours away from Sue and McGee. Had she driven all the way to my house with this news it would have been an exercise in futility, because, I wasn’t home. My family was not with me. Alone at the moment, I didn’t have anyone to fall against.
Mom passed in a hospital bed with me standing beside her. Dad later passed the same way. The reality of beeping monitors, nurses and doctors bustling around, family and friends crying, that was death, as I understood it. This phone call could not be real.
I had to get hold of myself. McGee was crying, too. My insane denials helped no one.
“I’ll call you back,” I said while trying not to sob in her ear.
“Please, talk to me. Tell me you’re okay.”
“I’m good! I’ll call you back.”
“Yes, McGee, I’ll call you back.” I ended the call and dropped the phone.
Nothing made sense. I gripped a chair as the world spun dizzily. My knees grew weak, and I collapsed to the ground. Even then, I had to hold on to that chair, for fear of slipping into the black chasm that threatened to swallow me. Breath came in sobs that I had no control over. I curled into a fetal position, allowing the tears to pool onto the floor.
Suzy was dead? We will never again have sunrise road trips, coffee chats, hour and a half phone conversations about nothing and everything. Oh my God! I didn’t even ask how. She’s gone, what difference does it make HOW? My sister Suzy was dead? Why?
I found out later she fell asleep and simply didn't wake. I'm still a little perturbed about that. She got a "Get Out Of Life Easy" card. That's how I want to go. Well, in another twenty-five years or so.
I'm Fifty-three and lost my dearest, closest, best friend. The Sister-Friend that told me someday we would share a rest-home room together. Years of laughter-filled memories give me comfort, and offer me peace in the quiet solitude of grief.
Have you been blessed with a friend like that? Call them now. Get together and shoot the shit. Have some coffee. Toke a number. Whatever. Cuz, I hate to use an old cliché, but...You never know.