Two years ago last month I lost my lifetime friend to cancer. Memories of our days together are crowding in on me today. I find writing about things often sweetens thoughts out of the past, so bear with me and I’ll try not to whine.
Her name was Iva Dell. She was dark skinned, had black hair and chocolate brown eyes. My skin was golden, my hair blonde, eyes blue. Those were only the beginnings of our differences, yet we fit together with perfection.
It was 1943, the war raged on. She turned eight that August, the following February I caught up. Movies were back and white, and Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff terrified us. Still we couldn’t wait till the next one opened. We lived in Plainview, a housing complex near Boeing. In those days kids walked everywhere, the only fear being that of memories of The Mummy or The Beast With Five Fingers chasing us all the way home. Every shadow was straight from the terrifying monsters on the screen.
All our lives we kept in touch, even when she married and moved to New York. We soon followed when we visited them and fell in love with the excitement of the Big Apple. Nine years later we trekked back to the heartland and landed in my home state of Arkansas. Sadly, she left her husband and brought all five children back, ending in Wichita.
Close together again, we visited often. For some reason I never understood, except she said her husband loved blondes, she dyed that gorgeous walnut colored hair platinum and though they parted, she kept it that way. Even when cancer stole her long luxurious locks, she bought a platinum wig until it grew back out and she could once more bleach it. Sometimes we did things that the other one never agreed with or understood, but it never effected our feelings toward each other.
I remember our last time spent together vividly. She was going with an older man who had a lot of money. He owned a summer home on Monkey Island on Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma. I was invited to spend the weekend with them there and we would drive. He flew his own plane down from Wichita. She had affected the look of a well-kept woman and carried this tiny little dog around everywhere she went. Even when we took the boat over to the mainland for breakfast she carried that dog. And I’ll never forget how classy she looked and acted. Not stuck-up, you know? Just classy.
I did see her one more time, when she was dying and had dark circles under her eyes and wore that blonde wig. We spent the night together and went to breakfast. We both ordered biscuits and gravy, then she ordered breakfast for her great-granddaughter who lived nearby and took care of her in her last days. I kissed her on the temple and told her goodbye. When I looked back she was sitting in the booth gazing out across the room. She never turned to watch me go.
So many times I’ve thought she deliberately accompanied us in her own car to that restaurant so we wouldn’t be faced with a private final goodbye. It was just like her to spare me that.
I miss the sound of her laughter, her touch, and I miss those dark nights when we ran screaming through the streets pursued by memories of the mummy and his ghost. Running from a fear that was not real, that was not threatening, but was the most fun we could have.