About a year ago, my best friend and I were discussing how we would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our friendship. We tossed around a few ideas of places to go and things to do. After that, we'd refer to it in conversations, but nothing was decided. Then, the pandemic was declared, which seemed to put the kibosh on that and many other things. I didn't think we'd have an opportunity to celebrate this milestone.
A month ago, I was listening to Dr. Michael Osterholm's weekly podcast about COVID-19. Dr. Osterholm is an epidemiologist with over forty-five years of experience. In the course of my research throughout the pandemic, I came across his name in an online news article. I have since read his book about pandemics, and I listen to all of his weekly podcasts. I find him to be a grounded, down-to-earth, and reliable source of information in this pandemic.
Towards the end of each podcast, Dr. Osterholm answers some questions that people have sent him via email. In this podcast, a woman who asked if it was safe for her to visit her ninety-one-year-old mother, also wanted to know if it was safer to drive or fly. After describing what is known and unknown about the risks during this pandemic, Dr. Osterholm told her to visit her mother now, to not wait. He said to visit her once, twice, three times.
His advice planted a seed in my mind. I did the necessary research and talked to my friend to find out which weekend worked best for her. It turned out to be this past weekend. I booked a room in a motel, close to where she lived. We left our plans open, because who knows what each day brings in a pandemic.
I got there before the check-in time at the motel, so I went to her house first. She, the man in her life, and her eldest daughter were there. They were sitting inside the garage with the door close, and I chose to sit outside. They joined me and we had a chance to be with each other, without masks, and catch up. My friend's daughter brought her dog, Blue. (That's the two of them in the picture.)
Blue is the first bully breed dog that I've gotten to know. When I was first around him, I was a little nervous because I wasn't familiar with his breed, an American bulldog. Over time, as I got to know him, I realized he was a gentle and respectful being.
It had been almost a year since I'd last seen Blue. He was not doing well then. He was elderly and arthritic. He had a difficult time walking, and just getting around. He moaned a lot because of the pain. Since I'd last seen him, he'd been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his back leg. Removing it would require amputating his leg, and given his age and physical build, he would not fare well on three legs. So, he will live the rest of his life as he is, with pain medication to improve the quality of his life.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was walking well. He was alert and he was happy. His owner had told him the night before that he was going for a walk on the beach. Anyone who has owned a dog knows that if you tell them they are going to do something they love doing, they will not forget or give up reminding you of what you said. He was pestering and pestering.
So, a brief discussion led to our first plans for the weekend, a walk on the beach. It was my friend, her daughter, Blue, and me. I drove myself in my car, and they went in another car. I pulled into the parking lot beside them and turned to see Blue's head sticking out of the rear side window. He was soooooooo excited.
Seeing him this time filled me with joy. He loves going to the beach, so this day was special to him. His owner used to take him there every day, but last year they moved away. Now, he was back to explore his old haunt.
He spent most of his time sniffing things. Now and then, one of us would look back to check on him. Yep, sniffing something else. He sort of, kind of kept up with us, in a slow, meandering, non-interested dog way.
At one point, his owner called him over to her. She was trying to convince him to go near the water with her. He'd finished his olfactory surveillance of the beach and was happy to comply with her wishes. I had the camera open on my cell phone, and took a series of photos of the two of them walking along the water. The one I posted here is my favorite. It shows that Blue has a pep in his step. It was wonderful to see him being playful and enjoying life.
Then we made plans to eat outdoors at a local tavern. After we left the beach, I went back to the motel. My friend and her daughter went into town to check out the tavern. It was over-crowded with too many people. My friend texted to let me know that she didn't feel comfortable going there that night. I agreed with her.
I suggested we stay outdoors, in her backyard, and order pizza. When I got to her place, it was even better than my suggestion. We had pizza and wings. It was a chilly night, so a fire was lit in the pit. After dinner, we sat around the fire. It was nice, like old times. We shared stories and discussed ideas.
The next day, I stayed in the motel room. It was blustery and cold outside. My friend texted and asked if I wanted to meet her and her gentleman friend for dinner at the tavern we had planned to go to the night before. I replied, yes. (I use the term gentleman friend because I don't know another term to describe their relationship. Calling him her boyfriend sounds juvenile at our age. When he talks about her to other people, he calls her his lady friend. So, I'm taking his lead by calling him her gentleman friend.)
They arrived before I did. I found a parking space on the road and walked to the tavern. The outdoor patio was sheltered by two walls, and there was an outdoor heater. My friend asked if I wanted to sit at the end of the table, to be farthest away from them (physically distanced), and I said yes.
The food and the service were great. We had a nice conversation with the server after the bill was paid. And yes, it is possible to be social from a physical distance. I've made a conscious effort to do that with people I know, and strangers, throughout the pandemic.
At one point, I said to my friend, "We probably won't see each other through the winter." And she said, "You could come down again and stay at the motel." I realized that during this pandemic, I keep thinking of things as having an ending. When she said that, I realized that my thinking was limited. Even during the pandemic, things can have a beginning.
Seven and half months into this pandemic, I walked on a beach with my best friend, her daughter, and Blue. My best friend and I were able to spend time together, three times over the weekend. We found a way to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary of friendship. It doesn't get much better than that. I am grateful.
P.S. Here's the secret to a half-century friendship: To have a good friend, you have to be a good friend.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.