"Hi Rand." A warm, worn eighty six year old Tallahassee drawl. "I was wondering if you'd call"
"Hey Beverly. Of course I'm gonna call you. Happy Kate's Birthday."
Another year, another phone call to a woman who, in all likelihood, I will never see again in person. Beverly is an eighty-six year old woman living in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the mother of Kate. For a few years starting in 1987 Kate was my girlfriend, and when she was no longer my girlfriend she was one of my best friends until she passed away in 2001. The last time I saw Beverly was in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly, right where the bypass meets Jefferson Hwy. She was meeting her ride to take her back home. It was the morning after Kate had died. The morning after the end of a week long, hospital room vigil. Kate was conscious but blissfully unaware as friend after friend stopped by to hold her hand, kiss her forehead, and hug each other. And now I was hugging Beverly goodbye, telling her I'd stay in touch.
"You sound great, Beverly."
"I feel pretty good, for 87! But sometimes I'm not quite as steady on my feet."
"You should try some gentle yoga. Keep moving."
I'm not sure how it started, but I fell into the habit of calling Beverly every March 4, Kate's birthday.
"How's the family?"
"Well, Jeneane has a new boyfriend. He seems real nice, and he obviously likes her a lot. And Lauren's still teaching. Can you believe she's 31 now?"
Lauren was Kate's niece, and the last (and only) time I saw her she was a toddler. Now she's a mother of two. We go on for a while about family, hers and mine. Beverly used to correspond with my mother before she passed away. It's almost as if we are family, and I guess in a way we are. Out of shared love and shared grief our lives have become intertwined.
It's time to sign off. I tell her I'll try to be in touch before another year goes by. It's always my intention, but it never happens. Who knows? Maybe this is the year.