Wide Awake: My 2 Best Friends 
When all that’s left is heartache
By Marianne Aleardi

Growing up, I had 2 best friends. They were sisters who lived in Cherry Hill, while I lived in Philly. I spent summers at their house (they had a pool) and during the school year, we saw each other whenever our moms would drive us. We’ve been lucky enough to have a lifelong friendship with many ups and downs. And now, there’s a really big down.

Years ago when we were young moms, our kids went to school together. On more than one occasion we would talk about what our 7th-grade selves would think if they knew we would (finally) live near each other, have kids around the same age, and be room moms at the same school, for the same class. We didn’t have to think hard though, ’cause we knew if we had actually believed that would happen, we would have been thrilled. It’s something we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams.

And yet it happened.

As our kids (and the 3 of us) got older and our lives evolved, the friendship changed. Some years we were close, some years we drifted apart. It went back and forth, but the history was always there. Childhood best friends share a bond that I find you can easily re-visit. Because it’s so comfortable, so familiar. It’s unbreakable.

But then a year ago, I found out one of these friends had been having some health issues, serious issues like constant pain and weakness all over – problems that came out of nowhere. So I texted to tell her I was thinking of her. She called, and we talked about what was going on, although she didn’t know much at that time. She could tell me how she felt, but no one had figured out why she felt that way.

When the call ended she was crying, and I felt like someone who couldn’t help a very important person in my life. I told her I was here if she needed me, but it felt like such an empty thing to say. I knew when the call ended there was pretty much no chance she would ask me for help. In a later text to me she said, “It’s uncomfortable because I’ve always been so independent.”

I replied that she was one of the most independent women I knew, which is true. Quite some time ago, she and her husband divorced. It was during a time when we talked often, so I knew a lot of what was going on. Her divorce is an example of how a woman decides what’s most important in her life and then selflessly does whatever she must to preserve it. Her approach was: I will go along with any request, as long as I get the custody arrangement I want. And she did. And it was hard. Sometimes I would say to her, “Are you sure?” But there was no question.

She was strong then and in the years that followed. She is still incredibly strong, which is vital, because she has been diagnosed with ALS.

I’m not sure how you stay strong with that diagnosis though, because it’s devastating and unbelievable and unfair all at the same time. There’s so much that is about to change I can’t even bring myself to write about it here. I can’t put the words down, because then it will be here for everyone to see, including me. I don’t want that.

Today, these 2 sisters who have had such a special place in my life, live in another state. One takes care of the other as they battle for more time. I think of them both often. I try to text, but I often don’t because I’m not sure what to say or I worry that what I do say may somehow, unintentionally, add to their burden. I don’t know what to do, so I don’t do anything – except feel heartache, because that is all there is right now. All we have is this shocking ending to our story – one we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams.

Read more “Wide Awake” by Marianne Aleardi

January 2023
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