I know this friend well. Very well. She came to me in friendship much later in life, far later than my other dear friends. I met her six years ago when we started working together on the TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie. We met that first day and instantly knew that we were meant to be friends. As we looked into each other’s eyes for the first time it was like, “Hello there. Where the hell have you been all these years?”
Much to the chagrin of directors, makeup artists, and everyone in-between, we were connected at the hip and at the mouth, as in we NEVER shut up. We could spend fourteen hours a day talk talk talking, laugh laugh laughing, and then we’d go home and start text text texting. It was a curious joy, this new friendship forged in my fifties. As my friend loves to recount, one of her favourite memories is when my husband said to her and her husband Pete, “We were at the point in life where we thought we had enough friends, no time for more. Then we met you guys”. And it’s true.
Colin and Pete also became friends during this time and they loved and admired each other greatly. Pete convinced Colin to return to the stage after a 23-year absence and do the play Art with him. To my husband’s everlasting joy it remains not only a professional highlight but a deeply personal one as well.
We lost Pete just over a year ago on January 8th, which ironically happens to be Colin and my wedding anniversary. I did a tribute to Pete and Sheila on this blog the day he died, which I went on to read at the two memorial services held for him in Toronto and Stratford respectively.
Sheila and her daughters have just completed their year of firsts without husband and father so it was important to me to go out to Halifax and support her in her first artistic venture of the new year, the beginning of her new life. I knew she would be wanting for company and thought it would be nice to fill that gap. Plus, I missed her.
Isn’t it always the way when you think you are doing something nice for someone and then, surprisingly, the gifts come to you instead? This was the case during our three days together. And this is where I make my case for the value of the sleepover. Dinners and days spent with friends can be rewarding, fun and silly, meaningful and valuable. But what I discovered on this trip was deeper. Often when Sheila and I get together for a night, a day or an event, we end up just playing catch-up. We while away the hours riffing and digressing with rapid fire and sharing the intimate details of our lives side by side in boutique dressing rooms or across a coffee shop table. When Pete was ill we would forge our way through clothing shops, weeping and whispering one second and screaming, “Oh my heavens, this dress is YOU!” the next, and then laughing our asses off at the irony. It was a year of conversation with only one looming subject. No matter how rich the gossip or bit of news, our minds and hearts were focused on Pete—his illness, Sheila’s handling of it, her daughters, their state of mind, our collective sorrow, our fear, her terror, her inevitable life without him and her stoic handling of all of the above.
When Pete died in January we had no idea that within weeks and months she would also lose her darling parents one after the other. She soldiered on and I was one of her many lieutenants, offering thoughts and ideas and just listening, trying to will her pain away but knowing I couldn’t. It was exactly what it needed to be and I was ... “happy” is the wrong word ...I guess I was ... grateful to be able to serve as shoulder, advisor, court jester. I had so much experience with death and dying and she had none to this point, so I was the perfect person at that time for her. It was a job I wished I was not qualified for, but there you have it. When Pete’s diagnosis first came in, I said to her—and I know this might sound strange—but I said of death and dying, “Sheila, I am good at this. Let me help you.”
But as fate would have it, we helped each other equally the whole time and it strengthened our bond even more.
This weekend was different. As a result of the sheer luxury of time, our relationship expanded. Yes, of course, we talked about Pete, but she in turn listened through my tear-choked voice to my fears and heartbreak around my parents changing lives and this time served as my shoulder, advisor, and court jester.
But it was more, for the first time in a long time. We talked and talked as we walked, shopped, and lay in bed. We talked of dreams and our futures. We talked of God, and our different upbringings. We talked of hopes and wishes, failures and regrets. We talked of aliens and of the universe. We talked of life and the getting on with it in the face of adversity. And we talked of the expanse of love. We talked of middle age and old age and worries and pride and schoolgirl memories.
Last night was the last night of our sleepover weekend and we were both blissfully tired after a full day of Friend. I wanted to be fresh for my flight home to my darling for Valentine’s Day and she for her last week of performances, so we hunkered down to sleep. I LOVE my sleep and always look forward to its coming. But damn, this is one sleepover I did not want to end in sleep. There was so much more to share. And we will. And I, for one, cannot wait.
Barbara: You guys have been through so much together! Makes me weep. But also so very happy you had this chance to bond in an organic and relaxed way. And look what happened! Girlfriend magic. I’ve had the chance to enjoy a few great adult-friend sleepovers in my time and, you are so right, it is completely different from the lunches or shopping trips or glasses of evening wine. It harkens back to those days of youth when you’re aching to keep your eyes open, straining to stay awake just a bit longer, the deepening darkness like a warm blanket making your secrets and dreams feel safe enough to come out and play.
|Sheila snapped this as Deb harmonized with the singer!|