Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sweet Sleepover

Deb: I travelled to Halifax this week to visit a dear friend who was performing in a play there. Arrived on Saturday and left on Tuesday morning. The plan was to see her play, shop, eat, chat and laugh. What wasn’t planned was deep connection.

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!

45 comments:

  1. What a lovely posting Deb, my eyes filled with tears as I read it. Your sleepover and deeper connection sounds wonderful. There is something so much deeper if you have the opportunity to do that with someone you love. You somehow get the privilege of slipping in to their daily rhythm and you understand on a deeper level what it is like to walk in their shoes (& they in yours) So it embellishes your friendship even more and that stays with you for a long time. That is what important memories are made of and they are a gift. It sounds like you both had a very special three days and she was lucky to have you help her during what must have been a terribly excruciating time in her life!! Lovely post!

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  2. Thanks Mary-Jo, I love how you put it "slipping into their daily rhythm". It's true. That is a part of what becomes the deeper connection for sure.

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  3. Happy for both of you. Two amazing women. A wonderful post Deb.

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    1. Thanks John. It was a wonderful weekend.

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  4. What a wonderful post Deb, thank you for sharing. You and Sheila have something special.

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  5. I"m sure we have what many friends have but I was so enthralled by the weekend I had to write it down. Thanks.

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  6. Sounds like you all have a very special relactionship Deb. Thats great .
    You know, i always thought that after high school i would lose all contact with my friends. But ,i have cme to learn nw that i am closer then ever with my friends nw. Friends are great.

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    1. Lynsdie I'm so glad you have held onto these friends. I can tell you that I have dear darling friends I have had since I was a single digit human.

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  7. "... a full day of Friend."

    LOVE IT!

    Laura in ATL

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  8. Sounds like a wonderful time, great post as well.

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    1. To LOVE. Its funny cause on Valentines Day i can feel lonely...yet our friendships can
      be the biggest LOVES of our lives. Thank you Deb for reminding me of how powerful my girl friends are to love.

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    2. Yes our girlfriends do get us though the slog with laughs and food and wisdom don't they?

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  10. so beautiful. some how your posts almost always reflect my evolution too. I had a fantastic friend day yesterday. so nice of you to share.denny xo

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    1. Denny that is perfect. We were both having a perfect friend day!

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  11. Wow..What a beautiful post Deb...I remember reading the post about her husband....Its hard to cope when you lose special people...I know how she feels...But I gotta say she is a HERO.....What a wonderful spirit of starting a new life and have new hopes and dreams.....And Deb I am so proud of you..the fact that you helped her release her pain....in her tough times....is so AMAZING...that is exactly what one needs in tough times....knowing the someone is there for you....to comfort you...and who loves you!!! I am sending a lotta hope and LOVE for her....time is the perfect gift we can give anyone going through this....time cures everything....!!!

    And its true isn't it ??? when you meet someone special...you can see in it their eyes...even when you are meeting for the first time.....You just KNOW them.......and you know that this person and you are gonna have a WONDERFUL RELATIONSHIP!!! I know that feeling....its amazing.....
    So glad to know you guys had a wonderful relaxed time and bonded and talked talked talked...!!!! I love talking.....so I liked that part !!! You explained a cherished friendship in perfect words.....!!!! And Barb replied to your post perfectly....!!!xoxo

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    1. Shalaka you always add to the celebration we are having be it friendship or other. Thanks for your kind words.

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  12. That's so sweet! I'm glad you had a wonderful time, and a wonderful friend.

    I can only remember the sleepovers I had as a kid. I used to love them very much, because my friend and I would talk and giggle for hours (until - and this is weird - my friend fell asleep first).

    Now, I don't like them so much, because I have so many problems to find sleep, and I'm always anxious...sounds weird, too.

    But I can imagine that nice, cozy, loved feeling.

    You must be an awesome friend, Deb. :)

    P.S. My Grandma is doing worse...I think it is time to say goodbye to her. I'm not scared...but I am insecure about how to deal with the emotions of my family. I never "learnt" to comfort someone. It's very hard for me...I feel so helpless. Could use someone, who is "good at this".

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    1. Becki I am truly and deeply sorry about your Grandma. I know you will be such a comfort to those around you how cannot cope because you always speak from your heart. And at a time like this it is about honesty (except where it causes pain) and heart, which you have in spades. Keeping a good thought for you.

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  13. Some of my fondest memories of college thus far have been when I am with my dear friends just laughing and having good times! There's a few I still keep in touch with, but sadly I have lost touch with most of them. I have tried to reach out but have not gotten anything in return.

    That is actually one of my regrets since most of my friends have graduated; not keeping in touch with them more. On my bucket list (which is posted in mine and holly's blog) I wrote that I wanted to keep in touch regularly with at least three friends from college. I realize this will take determination but I want to do it.

    Becki I am so sorry to hear about your Grandma :[

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    1. Kelly sometimes this things are circular. I have a dear darling friend, my longest friend actually. WE lost touch for years and now we are happily back in each others lives. So don't despair but also don't give up. I know you won't.

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  14. Deb, So happy for you that you had a chance to step back and celebrate this special friendship. Life gets/is so busy, it's hard if not impossible to grace all our friendships with the attention one would wish to accord them. As I have a very close girlfriend who lost her husband suddenly two years ago, I have a sense of how difficult a journey it is to walk along side someone who is facing such loss and, equally significantly, upheaval. I hope that I have provided some measure of the comfort your friend hopefully found in you. At the end of the day though, it's really what it all comes down to is it not? Walking the road, however difficult, with the hope that your company provides some measure of support and comfort.

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    1. That is it Annette, in a nutshell. That is what we are here to do I believe. All of us. Thanks.

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  15. What a joy to read. I, too, have had those weekends. I spent 5 months with my best friend who was diagnosed with cancer. I took her to all her treatments, spent nights in the hospital and hoped it would all go away. Sadly, she died. From diagnosis to death was just 5 short months but we crammed 42 years of friendship in that time never talking of death but once. The rest was filled with stories, humor and all the stories of our life. I felt so lucky to be able to be her soldier. I am way too familiar with death as well Deb. This story is just so wonderful to read. Some people never get this experience in their lifetime. I am blessed to have had it many times with a select few friends.

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  16. Madge I am sorry your friend didn't win the battle but with you at her side she certainly experienced the secret of life and did not have to die before knowing it. I am not a tiny bit surprised that you are this kind of a friend. Not one tiny bit.

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  17. Oh Deb..... You are just THE BEST !!!! thanks for making me feel so special you gals bring out the best in me....I am nothing without you all !!!!
    PS...I was watching this movie yesterday....and the "logo" reminded me of you....hope you like it !!! Love xoxo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPov7Qcy3Xc

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  18. It's a testament to her strength that Sheila did not dissolve into a puddle on the floor after losing not only her husband, but her parents, in such a short time. But I feel for her; these things do change you forever, and the pain and loss remain in spite of the joy and sweetness we continue to find in life, if we are lucky. I guess this is how things are supposed to be — I mean, death is something we have to "take" but it sure doesn't feel right, really!

    Many of my close friends have been in my life for more than 30 years, most of them once-upon-a-time roommates or housemates, so that it feels totally natural to spend days in each other's homes -- they are like family, they are sisters. I love these visits that last several days; they are the best. It's like actually living in a foreign country for a while instead of being "just" a tourist. You go deeper, closer to the daily realities, and renew connections in a much stronger way.

    I envy you finding a new close friend like this when in your fifties! That seems to happen rarely. It seems to require a shared reality like working together on Little Mosque for example, where experiences and memories of them are created that act as a glue after two people hit it off. I don't have anything like that right now and I miss it; my close girlfriends all live at least two hours away, and I've become a contented homebody who rarely sees my very busy sister, who lives only 20 minutes away and tsk, I must smarten up and make a point of spending time with her on a regular basis. I envy you having Barb close enough that you can get together for a coffee (or am I assuming something here). But thank goodness for email and telephone, at least; they do help.

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    1. Kate I love "it's like living in a foreign country for a while instead of just being a tourist". You are clearly surrounded by wonderful friends. Barb and I do see each other often in twos and mores! I hope you get a chance to see all your "sisters" more.

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  19. Sharon( not really a Golden Girl) ReineFebruary 15, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Well like u always say to me- it's all about the support and u give it in rivers. You are graced to have each other in your lives as well as all your other many besties ( tho some are MORE bested) and I am sure you will have many more joyous encounters together. I love u r so connected- I tend to be more on the comfort of distance meself- just who I am- tho obviously I 2 have my connections- just not as many or as close. But it's all good.

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    1. You have darling and good friends who adore you, this I know. But of course you are right, we don't often connect like this as much as we should. Sheila will come home and (other than Oscar night) I may not see her for weeks. So I know what you mean Sharon. BTW, I love all of your signatures!!!

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  20. Hey all, a wee bit of a mix-up on the photos for today -- and we almost missed this GREAT new shot (the one at the end). Don't miss it, it's soooo cute. xo Barbara

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  21. For my 40th birthday 23 years ago I had just separated from my ex and had a sleepover with my closest friends. We ate junk food and had such fun. One woman had to leave because even at her age she could not do sleepovers and had the same anxiety she did as a kid. The rest of us had a blast. Best party ever for me. Might do it again for 65.

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    1. Madge you must do it for 65! That sounds so fun. Maybe your friend was afraid you would put her hand in a bowl of warm water as she slept. :-)

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  22. That was really beautiful. I always love that both of you spill such warmth and positivity. I have to admit, I've learned a lot from that - even though I've only been reading for a short while! <3

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    1. Well that is so great Aimee! That is what we are all here for. We learn from you guys too.

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  23. a wonderful story of fun and friendship <3 : )

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    1. Fun and friendship! That's what it is all about Kelly, right?

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  24. The relationships that women weave over the years really grow into an amazing thing, don't they? What would we do without our girlfriends as we face the many challenges that we all go through in some form or another?
    Divorce, illness, aging parents, our own issues with getting older.
    I have a good friend who just separated from her husband in the last couple of weeks. I know she'll be okay because of the support of her many girlfriends that she has gathered along the way.

    Sometimes I worry about my husband because, although he has many friends, I don't think he has many "boy friends." Isn't it interesting that there isn't really a term for a guys closest friend. Maybe it's bro? Don't know. My guy is one of the really really really good ones. My best friend, we can talk about anything. But I do worry that he doesn't have the network of support with his male friends that I have with my girlfriends. Is this true for most guys? I would say so, but I'm not sure. Do they even need it?

    Once again, by sharing this with us, you've helped me to stop and think about my girlfriends and the

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    1. Men don't seem to talk over their personal stuff with their men friends. (I'm generalizing about the men I know; surely there are other kinds out there.)

      They tend to talk about impersonal stuff -- cars, tractors (where I come from), crops (yep), work, sports, videogames, and so on. Anything but the stuff that's really bothering them or having a big impact on their personal lives. (Hubby often invites me to go along with him to visit a buddy, but I decline ... their animated conversations about tires and trucks make my eyes glaze over.) Somehow I can't see that being as helpful as the way women empathize with each other (and with men who seem to be helped by talking with us). Actually there are studies showing that both men and women get more emotional nourishment from talking to women than from talking to men.
      That said, I encourage my hubby to go see his friends and have a beer together as often as possible; I do think it has to be good for him, even if their topics of conversation don't seem real meaty to me. He does have a "best" friend and those two can talk for hours nonstop -- so it must be very satisfying to them.

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  25. Like Kelly said, some of my fondest memories in life are spent with friends just laughing, talking, and getting closer. Next to my bed I have a wall full of pictures of old friends, college friends, my England friends, and every night I see their smiling faces and am reminded of the good times I've had with some pretty incredible people. :)

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  26. Having those friends that you can talk with for hours and never run out of things to say is a blessing! My grandmother has been in the hospital lately so I have been leaning on those friends a bit lately. So glad to have them and you all! xoxo

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