Sharon Randall: Forever friends

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

By Sharon Randall
My husband and I and our friend Linda were in the airport, planning to get dinner (I wanted calamari) before Linda’s flight left Monterey for Las Vegas.
On our way into the restaurant we passed an elderly woman leaning on the arm of someone I assumed to be her daughter.
Noticing a corsage (orchids?) pinned to the woman’s jacket, I said, “Beautiful flowers!”
And her daughter said, “It’s her birthday today! She’s 102!”
So while my husband and Linda waited to get a table, I got to know the birthday girl.
“It’s your birthday?” I said.
“Yes,” she said, laughing, “and I’m stuffed!”
Her name was Helen, and she didn’t look stuffed. She looked radiant, and not a day over 70.
I wish you could’ve seen her.
“Happy birthday!” I said. Then I added what I always say to loved ones and friends (even friends I’ve just met in the airport) on their birthdays: “I’m so glad you were born!”
“Thanks!” she said, beaming.
Helen and her daughter weren’t traveling. They are locals in an area known for great restaurants. But like many of their neighbors (including my husband and me) they like the food in the airport’s restaurant. Especially the calamari. So they chose it as the spot to celebrate Helen’s 102nd birthday.
We chatted a bit, then went our separate ways. Funny, how we can meet someone in passing and think of them as friends.
Friendship is always a gift, but it takes different forms. Some friends, like Helen and her daughter, come into our lives for only a moment. Others stay for years, in good times and bad, until one day, somehow, we lose touch. But if we’re lucky, we have one friend (or if we’re really lucky, a few) who show up and stick with us forever. Linda is one of my forever friends.
My husband and I were newlyweds years ago when his job changed and we moved 500 miles from family and friends on the Monterey Peninsula in California, to a town my mother called “Las Vegas of All Places.”
I’m a firm believer that home is where you make it. So we made Las Vegas our home. We loved the desert, having a pool and swimming at midnight. We loved the people we met, and especially the visits from our grown kids and others who were guests at our “hotel.”
But in our 12 years in Vegas, my only close friend (aside from my husband and a few checkers at Trader Joe’s) was Linda.
We were introduced by our husbands, who worked together at a newspaper. Thanks to similar backgrounds and senses of humor, Linda and I grew close right away. We could’ve been sisters. In some ways, we are. We would meet once a week or so to talk and laugh about everything and nothing. I called her my “oasis in the desert.”
Then my husband retired and we moved back to California, to be closer to our kids and all the grandkids they were giving us.
Linda and I kept in touch with texts and phone calls. But four years passed without our seeing each other. Then last week, she flew to Monterey, for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart, real visit.
My husband left town and let us have the house. So for five days and four nights, Linda and I talked and laughed about everything and nothing and celebrated being forever friends.
Our farewell dinner at the airport was great. Especially the company. And the calamari. Then we walked to the check-in line for her flight, hugged long and hard and said our goodbyes.
Driving home, I thought of something I learned long ago: People leave, but love remains.
I’m not sure when I’ll see Linda again. If not in this life, then on the porch in heaven.
But if we’re blessed, like Helen, to live to 102, I hope we celebrate our forever friendship, along with all our loved ones and friends. Over dinner. At the airport. With calamari.
Contact Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or