Ellen and I met on the middle school bus. For 3 years we never had a single class together, never shared any in-school experience. But we took the bus together every morning and every afternoon. We spent nights at each others houses, and told each other our secrets. We spoke our own language, literally. I remember one time we got in a disagreement on the bus in this language, and nobody had any idea what was happening.
We did not go to high school or college together, but she called me the night her father died.
Ellen and I had a difficult friendship- thick as thieves sometimes, and then years without contact. It was the wife of our mutual dentist that convinced Ellen to permit her to call me and tell me about Ellen’s condition. She was dying of uterine cancer at 45.
So, I called. And then we were best friends again, same same as always. She talks, I listen, but more intently now. So I came to Atlanta to visit in February 2012. We talked every evening, and I still think of her when I get ready to make dinner, that it’s time for my Ellen chat.
When I visited, she had just been told it was time to arrange hospice, and she was PISSED. She was still, after a year and a half long excruciating fight, prepared to keep fighting. One night in the little blue house, when she could hardly walk, barely hold down a bite, she wanted to take one more trip, have one more great meal. That’s the glue that always bound us. Love of food and travel.
So Ellen. That opinionated, pain in the ass, lifelong friend of mine. The one who knew everything about me and still loved me, still liked me. It’s Ellen that kicks me in the ass to make this leap.
Last week, knowing of my impending travels, her sister reached out to me, and asked me to take Ellen’s ashes along, and disperse along the way. Holy honor. Of course, being bossy pants from the grave, Ellen has dictated no sprinkling over water, for reasons nobody knows.
People have an idea how they will grow old, at least I did. I always thought that Ellen and I would be those childless little old ladies that grew old together, cantankerous and opinionated, but made great cornbread.