A Very Special Friendship

Growing up in a small town where there were more boys than girls and going to a private school in the city where you have no friends was not easy. I did have one very special friend. Her name was Stacy. She had cystic fibrosis and people would not let their kids play with her. They thought their kids could catch the disease from Stacy. Since my mom worked in a hospital setting she knew that cystic fibrosis was not contagious and I was allowed to play with Stacy. No matter how many times we tried to explain to other families Stacy was not contagious, they still would not allow their children to play with her. Keep in mind this was the 1970’s and people didn’t know or understand diseases like they do today.

Since I went to school in the city, Stacy and I didn’t get to see each other until my mom and I got home in the early evening. Stacy went to a local school when she wasn’t home struggling with her breathing or avoiding school because she was terribly picked on. She missed a lot of school. Every evening we would pull out hers and my school books and play school as we completed homework assignments. I would help Stacy with her words and reading as best as I could. She was always behind in school and would get frustrated and I would always try to encourage her. While she may not have been very book smart, she was smart in so many other ways. No one could ever underestimate her.

Stacy and I had a lot of adventures together. There were so many things she was not allowed to do or eat because of her cystic fibrosis. Coke and chocolate was off limits and other things that would make her sick like pomegranates. She wasn’t supposed to run or ride a bike fast. Needless to say, we did all of that and then some. Stacy wanted to live life and I wanted to live life right along with her. We both knew everything about each other. I knew all about her breathing treatments, how they had to beat her back twice a day, school, doctors visits and how her mom was a single mom and was an alcoholic. And, Stacy knew all about the abuse going on in my house as well as how I didn’t have friends at school. We stuck together. We were protective of each other. We always spent time talking about what was bothering us then we would go have some fun.

As kids we always wanted a coke and a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Since Stacy wasn’t supposed to have any, I would get money from my mom and me and Stacy would ride our bikes down to the store that was within walking distance of our houses. We would get a coke out of the drink vending machine and a Hershey’s chocolate bar out of the candy vending machine. We would take our treasures behind the store so we were out of sight and share that coke and Hershey’s chocolate bar. We never could figure out why they said Stacy couldn’t have either of those because they never made her sick and never caused her to have breathing problems. That was just one of our many secrets.

My parents had taken us on vacation to Florida one year. I came home with a bucket of shells. Stacy had never seen the ocean or seashells before. I was quick to dump out the shells I had collected and we both looked through them all. I remember telling Stacy to pick out what she wanted. She was so excited, picked out a bunch of shells and had always kept them.

We played with Barbie dolls, made homemade popsicles out of Kool-Aid and other snacks and would watch TV together. In the small town we lived in we lived in old wooden houses that had been around for years. They had huge rooms and big attics that were accessible by climbing the wooden ladder built onto the old walls in a closet. Stacy and I would climb into her attic where we kept a rectangular tin box. That box held little things that were dear to us and we were the only ones that knew it existed. I visited her old, abandoned house several years ago. It was beginning to fall in. I desperately wanted to try to get to the attic space and see if that tin box was still there. Unfortunately, it was to dangerous to try to climb into the attic since the old house was so unstable. I like to think that tin box was still there after all of these years along with our little things that were so important to us in our youth.

Stacy and I shared so much together until my parents moved us into town that was 15 miles away. I didn’t get to see Stacy everyday anymore. I was very lonely. As soon as I would get to go to my grandparent’s house that was the first place I would ask to go to and we would pick up right where we left off. The year before my grandmother died, my parents had divorced and my mom moved us to the city 55 miles away. I didn’t get to stay in touch with Stacy much. Phone calls back then were long distance and you got charged by the minute. But every time I went to stay at my grandparent’s house, I would ride my bike to Stacy’s and spend time with her. We missed each other terribly.

When my grandmother died, Stacy came up to me at the funeral and was at a loss for words. She knew how much my grandmother meant to me and I was inconsolable. She just stayed by my side until the family left to go home. The last time I spent the night with Stacy was January 1981. She had just gotten a flu shot and we slept under her oxygen tent. We watched tv and laughed at anything and everything. Little did I know that 7 months after my grandmother died Stacy would lose her battle with cystic fibrosis. I was 13 years old and Stacy was just shy of turning 13. I remember the day my grandfather called me about coming to stay with him for the weekend. I asked if I could go see Stacy and that’s when he told me she had died the week before. I was devastated and angry that I didn’t get to say goodbye or attend her funeral. So that weekend, I rode my moped up to the cemetery and spent time sitting by her grave talking to her and promising her she would always carry a special place in my heart.

It’s now been 41 years since Stacy died. When I go home to Louisiana and visit the cemetery where my grandparent’s are laid to rest I always go and lay flowers on Stacy’s grave. I have told stories about the things we used to do and made sure my kids know who she was and what she meant to me. I think of her often and all of the things we did together and smile. And I’m sure when she thinks of those things in heaven, she is smiling, too.

We were and always will be best friends.

4 responses to “A Very Special Friendship”

  1. Wow, very special story. I don’t think I knew her but memories you share of her will live on in my heart too. Thank you for sharing such a special story! Love you cuz!

    Liked by 2 people

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