Darlene and I were both French majors, and while I continue to be fascinating at cocktail parties, she actually used her degree and became an astoundingly good teacher at Marshfield High School. She was the kind of teacher who is constantly met by former students with hugs and kisses and pictures of babies. Darlene made and makes a difference.
Twenty-one years ago she had a brain aneurysm which nearly took her from us. Her youngest child was four, and the other two not much older. She had to learn to walk and talk again. She had to leave teaching, and she can't drive anymore. But I have heard Darlene say that it was the "best worst thing that ever happened". I have never seen anyone who can find the joy and beauty in every moment faster than my friend. She is so grateful to be alive. Her phone messages begin with a chorus of "You Are My Sunshine" and if you get her answering machine you will find that her message ends in "Go, Red Sox! Go, Bruins!" or whatever team is in season.
In addition to being delightful company, Darlene fascinates me. Before I had two jobs and was a little easier to pin down for lunch, I would kidnap her fairly often and we would sneak away for a Chinese feast or a glass of wine and "quelquechose" at the Bridgewaye on the water. Often her speech is halting and slurred, but every now and then some neuron fires and she sounds just like she did in college. I usually give her a signal that "Elvis is back in the house" and we both marvel at how that happens. We'll have to sneak a lunch around my weekends at the boutique soon.
Whenever we part there are, of course, hugs and kisses on cheeks, and she has a habit of tracing the sign of the cross on my back with her thumb, an extra blessing to go with me on my way. I do it now, too and she laughs when she catches me at it. Although I must say, knowing Darlene is as much blessing as most people need.