Dianna

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a great friendship and a great loss...

Submitted: May 25, 2012

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Submitted: May 25, 2012

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Dianna

 

I didn’t take to her at first.  This bright-eyed, impossibly thin, enthusiastic young lady with the twinkly eyes and tinkly laugh.  What could she possibly want with me?

She won me over.  She liked me.  She liked coffee also - our friendship was forged over tall non-fat lattés in the Starbucks of Silicon Valley.

She’d lived in England – understood the English way.  I could say “bloody” and “damn” and she’d laugh indulgently.  I could be sarcastic, ironic, Dianna understood every word, every allusion and laughed along with me – I wasn’t used to that.  I could, in the English way, discuss other people  – Dianna gleefully joined in, but always restraining me with her severe honesty and fairness.

We were very different, Dianna and I. I’m more your typical engineer, interested in things rather than people. I burrow under data books and dream of machines.

Dianna was Vassar-polished, sophisticated, at ease with Presidents and janitors. She would sweep into a room of strangers with her smile that sparkled like Tiffany’s best and the room was hers.  Enthusiasm without bounds, life lived to the full, her voice above the buzz, her presence dynamic.  She took me over, stood me up and ordered me to be her friend – I had no choice but to comply.

I soon learned to go along with Dianna.  She was, without doubt, the bossiest person I have ever met, but I liked her all the more for it.  She simply knew exactly what should happen, and it was simply no use arguing with her.

We took it strictly in turn to pay for coffee – if there was any doubt at all whose turn it was, Dianna insisted on paying.  I would simulate a heart attack or other severe physical distress, but she was used to that and would calmly pay as I was wailing or throthing or thrashing about under the table.

In the valley of the workaholics, she worked harder than anybody I have ever met.  I have no idea how she became a lawyer while working full-time – often putting in long hours of overtime – sometimes working all night.  She was very often very tired – understandably.  The time we spent together was a relaxation for her, yet it was always the responsible Dianna who would have us heading back to work, after an often impossibly short break.

I bought her a present once, a balloon with that ‘Scream’ painting on it.  She absolutely loved it – it just WAS her life at that time – impossibly full of work and college, no time to do anything, yet everything done impossibly well.

One afternoon, when her work was a bit lighter than usual, we sneaked off for a picnic. I brought some cheese, tomatoes and a baguette, Dianna brought a bottle of wine, a bottle opener and – zounds – cutlery!

Well, the day was cold, the cheese was moldy, the table dirty, the ground too wet to sit on.  But we had fun anyway, cutting off hunks of bread and balancing bits of tomato and cheese while swigging wine from plastic coffee cups.

Our friendship never turned ‘serious’.  We hugged a couple of times at a party once, but being friends just worked for us.

She left, followed her star, went to Washington DC to become a hot-shot lawyer in a hot-shot legal firm.  I was sad, missed her and yes, I was a little peeved at her as well.  Rationally, I knew she wouldn’t be Dianna if she stuck around.  On a deeper level, I needed her friendship and her laugh and her company and her strength. Work wasn’t the same without Dianna.  It was way too quiet and predictable – I started to look around for somewhere else.

We kept in touch – we phoned – often at first, emailed.I went to Arlington to see her one weekend – the cab driver finally found her house, I had to hang around for an hour in the freezing rain until she came home to let us in - me and my new friend the cat.  She seemed tired, worn out that weekend, she had added rehearsals for a musical to an already impossible schedule.  But still she insisted on treating me as an honored guest. 

It was strange being with Dianna in her house – watching her cook actual food, seeing the ‘guest’ bowl of those little soaps you pick up in hotels.  She ‘did’ Washington with me – it must have been the thousandth time for her, but you would not have guessed it.  She insisted on dragging herself around the Air and Space museum, although I can’t believe it interested her much.  She bought me a mug and an airplane – I still have them both, on my desk, at work.

The Kennedy grave meant nothing to her – I think that was the first time I noticed our age difference – Dianna, gracious, never let me feel older.

I saw Dianna another 2 or 3 times before her illness. For coffee or lunch, always just like the old days.  I like to think that I helped her when she was going through her separation and divorce.  We laughed together at the unbelievable claims being made.  I privately worried that she would never find someone who could keep up with her.

The last time she came down to see me, we talked about life and love and the past and the future.  We parted very amicably, but with one memorable event.  As we stood there, saying “see you” and “have a good trip” and all the other meaningless things, she suddenly hugged me.  Dianna hugged me on that day for what seemed like an eternity - at least 10 minutes.  At the time, I didn’t understand, maybe now I do. Dianna was saying goodbye…

Dianna and I continued to phone, but not as much.  Her email replies became briefer – we both seemed to be moving on.  I tried to understand that she needed to rebuild her life, find a new partner following her divorce, but I’ll admit, I was a bit hurt.  I talked about coming over to see her, and she sounded positive, but maybe only ‘politely’ positive – I quietly dropped the idea.

Then one day she called me – it was maybe 6 months since we’d talked, and I had regretfully concluded our friendship was over. She had collapsed at work – had some tests – told me to Google her diagnosis.

My friend Dianna had a brain tumor – aggressive, very hard to treat – her prognosis was poor.

She needed me.  Dianna and I were always honest with each other, and I said “I thought we’d just about lost touch!”  She said that she hoped her illness would bring us back together again.  I promised to be there for her, as much as I could.  We arranged a date for me to come over and visit – we even bought tickets to see Turandot together in San Jose in October – but it was not to be. 

Incredibly soon, the Dianna I knew was gone.  Her treatment took away her balance, her peripheral vision, her short-term memory and her independence.  This wonderful spirit, so full of life, so full of sparkle, who had been such a good friend to me, was profoundly changed.  That Dianna was very ill, there could be no doubt.

We had dinner in her home town of Albany – we laughed, we joked, we talked, we walked. I told her all about Oscar Wilde, whose biography I had just read. She forgot what I had said almost immediately, but I didn’t mind repeating it several times.  We laughed about it, then laughed some more when her directions home, in the town she had grown up in, got us lost in a warehouse parking lot.

Driving back, the last time we had dinner, I discovered she didn’t like Pink Floyd, but did like Patsy Cline, who died before she was born.  I parked my car too close to the sidewalk – with her weakened sense of balance she couldn’t get out of the car.  She would NOT let me move the car further away from the sidewalk.  She would NOT let me lift her out of the car.  It took my friend Dianna over 15 minutes to get out of my car that night, but she made it – all by herself.  I was very proud of my indomitable friend Dianna.  But I cried all the way home.  Writing about it now, 10 years later, I’m crying again……

Soon after, Dianna entered hospital and on August 22nd, 2002, she died.

………

 

When I think of Dianna, which I do often, I have many regrets of course.  I wasn’t the friend to her I could and should have been after she left for Washington.  I could have spent so much more time with her after she came back home.  I could have known her so much better.  I could have..……. well, it’s quite a list.

But usually, when I think of Dianna, I think about her attitude to life.  Her ‘MUST DO’ spirit, the way she was scared of NOTHING.  When I have to face something in my life that is REALLY DIFFICULT, I see again, Dianna’s cheery laughing face encouraging me, setting me high standards, and I borrow Dianna’s confident ‘win-them-over’ smile and I go on and win – for Dianna. 

I am so glad that I knew her - I miss her so much…..

 

 


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