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Yesterday would have been the 79th birthday of my dear friend, Sue. I met her when I was 23 years old. She was 43 with kids my age and younger. Six of them.
This past weekend those kids created a family reunion to celebrate her birthday, her memory and the mega-family my friend and her husband produced. She literally has more grandchildren than can be counted. I know, I know—how can that be. Because one of her daughters has officially and unofficially fostered, adopted and touched so many young lives that they cannot be counted. Therefore, among this abundant group were the biological, adopted, fostered, and always beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren that sprung from her six kids. Sue had adored them all.
Five of her six were present, and friends and friends and friends. As well as her husband, Jack, who said as he surveyed the brood, “One way or the other, all these are related to me.”
I don’t know how many we were. In the creek, and in the pool, running, sitting, standing, cooking, sleeping, eating, talking, laughing, and sometimes crying. (Teen girls were in the bathroom. No telling how many of them were stuffed in there.)
Years had evaporated as we were each checking off items on our to-do lists. Building lives, raising another generation. Now toddlers had toddlers and I could only stand in surprise at what had happened when I wasn’t looking. Her kids no longer, some with grandchildren of their own.
As we caught up to present there was a point when we all spoke of Sue. When we knew her. How we knew her. What we remembered. What she meant to us.
One of my first posts when I began the Random journey was about reconnecting to this family, believing I was the director of a phone call scene that brought me back to them, only to find I was a bit-player in a scheme far beyond my reach. I re-post it now in honor of Sue Summers’ 79th birthday and her delightful, uncountable crew.
To the Summers women, thank you for including me. Thank you for knowing, as I did, that something larger than any one of us was at work when we found each other again.
My heart will be with you today as you send your mom's ashes to meet her spirit where it always was. Ever free.
Is it really all random? Here’s a story. You be the judge.
Awakened one morning and checked email. Saw the date. Ah. The birthday of a friend. One I hadn’t seen in 15 years. Or talked to either. Every year on this date I thought of her, even made two half-hearted attempts at finding her. Had stopped at an antique store where she had a booth for selling her wares. Asked about her. They said she’d moved a long while back. Didn’t know how to find her.
How had it happened when we’d been so close? My husband died and she was having marital woes. Each of us in a thorny hedgerow. Nothing left for the other. No hard feelings. Only good wishes. We went on to heal, separately. Changed. They'd retired and moved away, together. That was good.
This morning was different. I needed to find her. She’d been too important. Shared my wedding. Drove me to the hospital to have my daughter, stayed when the baby died. Witnessed my son’s christening. There for the elevating, and the leveling. So dear to me. That part wasn’t random.
Her name was common. Each search brought up thousands. But I remembered her son-in-law’s name, foreign and rare. Only one pass needed. Called him. Got her number.
The telephone rang. She answered hello with her deep, raspy, lounge-singer voice, before her squeal, “It’s my birthday! Did you know?” Sure I did, happy to have brought such delight.
Emails and calls back and forth. Catch up. Catch up. She lived in Michigan close to my Ohio client. We made a plan. I’d be there in two months, grab a car and drive to her. Set in stone. Details sorted.
A couple of weeks before the anticipated visit, her husband phoned to tell me. She died. He hated to give me the news. Knew I was counting days to what wouldn’t be. She’d been counting, too. He wanted me to know.
I thought I was on a search for hello. But I was part of wrapping it up. A teen-age shriek as she said my name on that first call. A loving treasure left behind. A solid good-bye hidden inside hello. I didn’t know it then. Didn’t know I looked for her so she could give me that gift.