i remember, just before i got married, asking my mother how i would know how to be married. she told me not to worry, that i would learn. that every day of marriage would teach me something new, until one day i would wake up and realize that i knew everything there was to know about being a wife. i remember asking the same question before my first child was born. how on earth would i ever know how to be a parent? my mother, once again, gave me the same answer and she was right.
every passage in life, it seems, takes getting used to and each stage involves learning new skills. being married was easy compared to being married with children and being a parent was easy compared to being a parent with teenagers. i have had to learn how to deal with a spouse who was not always healthy and with children who did not always follow the path i would have chosen. i have learned to live with just one parent, after the death of my father and then to live with none when my mother died. i consider myself a good student and have managed, through most of my adult life, to catch on quickly and navigate the sharp u-turns that life throws at you without a minutes notice. but now i am stuck.
we buried a friend on monday. a good, kind, generous man who was way to young to die. this was a man who had such a zest for life that less than a week before passing away was a guest at his own 53rd birthday party. i have buried parents and aunts and uncles and countless beloved pets - but burying a contemporary is a whole other ball game. a few days after the funeral i called his widow, just to see how she was doing. she didn't pick up the phone - the machine did and it was his voice that answered. it took me a second to compute that this was michael's voice even though michael no longer was. i left a message. the rest of the day i felt haunted by the sound of his voice. i tried to apply my mother's wisdom to this situation but i couldn't. i had to face the fact that there are some things in life that are just a hell of a lot harder than others. i had to face the harsh reality that losing a friend is not something that you can learn by doing.