This piece is not aligned with my usual topics of discussion. However, it is a piece I have felt equally strongly about writing.
I first met Roslyn when we were being herded, like livestock, across an asphalt yard into orderly lines based on the letter at the beginning of our surnames. Mine was ‘R’ and Roslyn’s was ‘S’. We both stood shivering in our summer dresses that were at least three sizes too big. We were 12 years old, and this was our first day of high school.
We bonded over our introversion (although Roslyn’s social skills were significantly more well developed than mine); our school yard bullying experiences (we were too short, too smart, too quiet, too well behaved, too timid,…too…nice); our strict upbringings; and our fathers’ mental health conditions. We were there for each other’s most embarrassing moments, and we lamented the way the boys we liked didn’t seem to know that we existed….or worse still; they did, but chose to ignore us. We philosophised, we pondered, we spiritualised and we laughed until we cried. We shared our dreams, our insecurities, our fears and our deepest secrets, peppered with significant amounts of black humour.
Even after spending all day together at school, we could easily talk for hours on the phone in the evening. The horrors of high school were made bearable by having a friend like Ros. She kept my sanity intact and gave me the strength to show up each day. Having a friend who loved me unconditionally, regardless of my self-righteousness and my bad fashion sense, also gave me the courage to step out into the wider world.
Roslyn introduced me to Orange Pekoe tea, Green Ginger wine and Bacardi and Coke (….the last-mentioned not quite as successfully and gracefully as the aforementioned beverages….). She also introduced me to the world of Lops, Angoras and Harlequins. Her love of pet rabbits continued into her adult years, and it has never surprised me to see a furry critter bounding around her living room on any given occasion.
After high school there were courses to study, countries to travel, jobs to secure, relationships to have, people to marry, babies to deliver, cities to relocate to, families to raise and careers to develop; each done in our own individual order. While we haven’t always maintained regular contact over the years, my friendship with Ros has always been one of those friendships where we just ‘pick up where we left off’ like we have never been apart. There is never any judgement or disappointment in one another for the times of lack of contact; we just enjoy each other’s company when we have it and share our news, our plans, our struggles and our opinions. We philosophise, we ponder, we spiritualise and we laugh until we cry.
Roslyn is an intelligent, kind, caring, encouraging, positive, funny, strong woman who has successfully balanced her professional career with being a wonderful mother and maintaining a happy marriage. She’s a reminder of what I have achieved in my own life, too. When I look at Ros, I see how far we both have come from the nervous, insecure twelve-year-olds we once were, shivering in our at-least-three-sizes-too-big summer uniforms. And I’m proud of us.
Nothing could have prepared me to read, at the end of the newsy response I got to an email I sent her, that she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I called her immediately.
She calmly stated, “Things could be worse. People die in accidents without warning. I have a reminder that my days are finite and I’ve been given the chance to live each day deliberately.”
Such grace, such optimism and such strength. I have always been proud of my beautiful friend, but I’ve never been more proud of her than I was at that moment.
That was almost a year ago. I’m not sure how long I will have Roslyn for, but it is lovely to be included in her ‘living deliberately’ adventures. We’ve enjoyed lunches and pots of tea, we have philosophised, we have pondered, we have spiritualised and we have laughed until we cried. She even surprised me by driving an hour and a half to turn up, unannounced, to hear a speech I was giving to a public forum recently.
We have agreed that she needs to stick around long enough for us to celebrate our 50th birthdays together. I’m not sure if that will be possible, and so I wanted to follow her example of living deliberately and use this time and space to tell her how very precious she is, and how very dearly I love her.