Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ahhh, to be sure

We had the "save the date" magnet on our refrigerator for months. In fact nearly every time Tim passed it, he commented on it out loud in an Irish brogue. "Patty and Sean are getting married. Ahhh to be sure." That made me laugh every time.

Patty is Nonie's daughter. And Nonie has been my best friend since I was 6 years old. Steve and I were really looking forward to what promised to be a great party.  But it was not to be.

 About 48 hours before the wedding I knew I wouldn't be able to go. Patty's wedding was on February 16 and Maggie's incident happened in the early morning hours of February 14 - Valentines day.

Our families already knew things were critical and by Friday afternoon our worst fears were confirmed and I updated everyone with the grim news by email. As I wrote it, I thought of Nonie and Patty and all the plans and the final countdown. I knew there was absolutely nothing Nonie could do for me or Maggie and there was no good that could come from telling her what was happening. They were so excited and this news could only pop their balloon. I told my family to circle the wagons and keep this within the family because I was bound and determined to let them get through that big wedding before telling Nonie.

This sounds generous, but I assure you it was a bit selfish. It gave me a purpose. It gave me focus. It gave me something to control in a situation that was completely beyond my control.  In fact it became something of an obsession to me.

Of course not telling Nonie presented two other problems, One, I had to keep it from my other good friends Lori and Sharon who would be attending the wedding. It would be too hard for them to put on a happy face for the wedding. That was doable, but I felt kind of bad. Two, I had to somehow convey to Nonie that we couldn't come to the wedding without letting on what was happening. We were seated at her table and it would be pretty bad to just not show up.  All I can say is thank God for text messaging. I waited until about 5PM on Saturday afternoon to text Nonie, knowing she would be too busy at that point to call me. I told her that Maggie was in the hospital and she texted back her disappointment.  That was about four hours before Maggie passed away.

We went home from the hospital late Saturday night sad and in disbelief. The word was already starting to leak out. San Francisco is a small town when you are a native. Everybody knows everybody else. One or two people put something on facebook, but with or without my obsession to keep this information from Nonie, I was just not ready for that onslaught. I thanked them privately and deleted their posts.  Grace, Eddie's girlfriend, helped me lock down my facebook so no one could post on my wall.

The wedding was at 3:30 on Sunday and the reception started at 5:00. I figured if I could keep it under wraps until the reception started I was good. My family did as I asked and kept it to themselves. As the day wore on, friends of the boys were getting word and it was showing up on facebook. I was losing control of things, but that was inevitable. It was time to tell people and to face the onslaught. I waited until about  8PM on Sunday night and then I posted the news on my blog and linked it to facebook.  I figured if some jerk at the reception was reading facebook and made a point of telling the mother of the bride, there was just nothing I could do about it.  We were ready to handle the attention - well,  to be honest, no we were not; but we knew we couldn't delay any longer. The condolences poured in and gave us a lot of comfort.

Monday was President's day. I texted Lori and Sharon early in the morning and asked them to call. Lori, the early riser, called right away. She said the wedding was great and asked how Maggie was doing. In a strange way, that made me feel good because I knew then that they didn't know. But now I had to tell her. I don't think I said more than, "Well, that's why I wanted to talk to you.' She heard my shaking voice and knew immediately. I only remember her saying Oh NO.   I told her Nonie and Sharon didn't know and she promised to keep it to herself until I talked to them. Sharon called about an hour later and I repeated the same thing. It was so so sad. They are such great longtime friends of mine and it hurt to tell them.

I was going to wait until about noon to tell Nonie. I figured there would be some sort of after wedding brunch so there was just a little more time to go. People started arriving here and I lost track of time. There were a steady stream of visitors and lots of love and food and flowers arriving every minute. Steve left to ride his bike or walk the dog or something and suddenly he was coming back in the front door saying,  "Sally, look who's here." Nonie was standing at the door crying -- and she's not a crier.
Seems I forgot that Nonie has my blog emailed to her. She asked her husband to check her phone for something and saw his face drop. But that wasn't until Monday morning, after the wedding but before the brunch. Mission accomplished. She said she went through the brunch like a zombie.

As she stood in the doorway, Nonie said simply, "I know what you did. You didn't say anything because you didn't want to spoil Patty's wedding." Well, yes, that's true. What possible purpose would that serve? You couldn't help me and all I could do was hurt you. But it also gave me something else to think about, something else - ANYTHING else to focus on. Knowing there was happiness in my world to balance out the tremendous sadness was a big help. She didn't believe me at first, but I think she does now. It really helped me a lot.

She offered some fantastic flowers and I marveled at her ability to get that done so quickly, but she said, "It's Patty's bouquet." I asked, "doesn't Patty want Patty's bouquet?" She said "No, she wants you to have it. OK she doesn't know that yet, she's on her way to Hawaii, but I know that's what she will want." (We are drying that bouquet for her.)

When you've been friends for 50+ years there are a ton of interconnections. I know all of her secrets and she knows mine. We made our First Communion together when we were 8 (picture). We unintentionally had matching dresses one Easter in about the third grade. We broke a lot of rules in High School and traveled through Europe together in 1980. We were in each other's weddings. Ironically we both had two sons and one daughter. I am the godmother to one of her sons.  When I was paying for Patty's wedding gift a few weeks before all of this happened, I laughed when I realized it was the exact same thing Nonie gave me as a wedding present 28 years ago (Waterford salt and pepper shakers). Still, having our daughters' happiest and saddest days intertwine was just macabre. Nonie said it best. She said it is like a bad TV movie on Lifetime or something. When it ended with this you would just yell at the TV and say, "Oh c'mon. That is BS."

Patty's thank you note arrived the other day and it made me cry all over again. I know I will get to a point where Patty's wedding makes me think of Maggie and smile instead of making me remember the worst few days of my life.  I will think how Patty and Sean saved us by giving me a positive things to focus on.

And I'll do it with an Irish brogue just to bring to things full circle.  "Patty and Sean got married....Ahhhh, to be sure."

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