andy and me

The last time I spent any significant time with my friend Andy, we were probably in our tweens and teens goofing off at the pool, tossing lounge chairs into it and surfing its bubble-plastic insulating covers at night, doing stunts off of the three-meter diving board, playing sharks and minnows, dipping our licked fingers into boxes of dry, sugary Jell-O between swim meet races, riding bikes up and down Phantom Lake and Spiritridge Hills eating sticky bits of broken Big Hunk nougat bars and handfuls of Whoppers and Skittles while listening to KC and the Sunshine Band.

If someone had told me that one day, at fifty, we’d be walking side by side along a fogged-in Maine beach talking about his wife Lori and one-year-old son Alec and my Michael and Calvin, I’d have laughed in amusement. After all, and regrettably, it has been a serious rarity, being so far away from the Northwest, to receive visitors from my youth.

After a long, leisurely hike through dewy white pines, maples and oaks teeming with mosquitos, Andy and I stood for a time leaning against a tangle of blanched driftwood piled on the shore by passersby into a kind of twisted triangular shelter. Looking out through the mist into the sea, I told him how the grief of having a severely disabled, chronically ill child never goes away—the loss, the disappointment, the constant worry and the nag of shattered dreams. As I spoke my lips quivered and tears spilled onto my cheeks. I turned to him and we embraced. After a good, long hug we started back to the trailhead. Walking arm in arm with him he felt like a brother. He said he was sorry—for me, for us—but I could tell it wasn’t pity he felt, it was sympathy.

At the salt marsh midway to the parking lot we spotted a great blue heron closing in on its prey. We stood watching as it crouched into the reeds at the side of a creek. Suddenly, it plucked what looked like a small eel from the water, then stood for a while shaking the life out of its meal before swallowing it whole. The eel never stood a chance. I thought of Calvin and pondered his fate.

When I dropped Andy off at the airport after his stay, we hugged again. He told me that I was a great mom then said how he felt like he’d made a new friend in Michael. As I drove home thinking about this person whom I’ve known most of my life—used to spend every summer with, hours and days on end—I realized it felt like I’d made a new friend, too. Because of Andy's visit we’ve crossed a kind of intimacy divide where, for a time, he stepped into my shoes, saw my world, felt my angst and joy and pain because I don’t hide it, can’t. Andy accepted no apologies from me, though I felt compelled to offer them in the wake of my ugly outbursts of frustration and exasperation. He takes me at face value, accepts me as I am. He promised to try and return to Maine some day. I am already looking forward to his visit.


  1. Isn't it wonderful to have true friends?

  2. He sounds like the perfect friend. I know that breaking down with a friend, in such an intimate way, is so healing in its weird way. Love to you --

  3. I took my daughter out yesterday for an outing, to one of her favorite places. She has so much fear and anxiety, constantly pinches me, or slaps her head and screams and cries. Yesterday I realized that one day I will be gone and it will be her siblings sitting with her as she ages, grows old and dies. It's a heavy burden for them as well.

  4. Christy: I was honored to have met Andy, if only briefly. He seems like a true friend, time and distance not withstanding. Xoxo, Matt