Tomorrow is my birthday, but today it is Steve’s birthday. I love Steve..no! Not that kind of love. The I love- you-no- matter-what kind of love that friends have. And there has been a lot of no-matter-what.
Steve is wild, a word used to describe me about four times in my life. He has vacillated between addiction and recovery over the last decades. We connect only a few times during the year. Still…
We have shared this birthday bond since we met the first day of college. He was dating my roommate. He did that more than once. When she dumped him sophomore year, he landed in Florence the following year with me and 90 others. He surprised me on my 21st birthday that year when he escorted me to various bars and then opened the door to a favorite Florence restaurant where our friends yelled “surprise!” Friends, including a man I did “love with that kind of love.” During dessert Steve leaned over to me to confess his love – for my good friend. I giggled and said, “You’ll be happier when you tell her!” He did. They dated for the next few years.
When he married Mary Jane, I read scripture at their wedding. When I married, they drove over the mountains to attend; Steve put his arm around me at the reception and whispered outrageous comments in my ear. I laughed uproariously in a most unbride-like fashion. He always makes me laugh – I am his best audience.
When my uncle died, Steve dressed up and sat in the back of the church; I looked at his smiling face when I delivered the eulogy. He kept my tears in check. And when Mary Jane died, I sat next to him at her funeral.
We are unlikely friends. Someone once asked, “What is it between you two?” I am not sure, except that I know there is a kind and gentle soul that lives in that man – sober or not - a kindness I adore. The disease often masks that true nature, but I refuse to be fooled. And every February 2, I call him, to tell him of my gratitude for years of memories, gentle moments, good conversations – and birthdays shared.
Happy birthday, Steve. ..All my love, Caterina
Who are the unlikely “friends-no-matter-what” in your life?
(Photo: Cathy and Steve on Cathy's wedding day)