Wednesday, April 12, 2017

THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FRIEND

Growing up physical therapy was torture.  In elementary school, the physical therapist did not care if the stretching she was doing to my limbs hurt/ The woman would tell me that the stretching did not hurt.  I wondered how she knew. That was the attitude of all of my PT's in the 1960's. They were doing their job. I was getting my therapy. That was all that mattered.

In 1970, when I was in the 8th grade, a new physical therapist began working at my school. She was the first physical therapist to ever say she was sorry if she hurt me while bending and stretching my arms and legs.   Her words meant a lot to me because I knew that she wasn't just saying it. She was genuinely sorry that the stretching hurt me. Her name was JoAnn. too. We both spelled our name differently. but I think it was a sign of the friendship that was to come.

When I met JoAnn she loved gothic romance novels. Her favorite author was Victoria Holt. It wasn't long before I was reading them too and dreaming of moving to England to marry a rich, handsome man and live on his estate. We'd talk about te characters and plots.When I was young, those books were the coolest books I had ever read. Those books came with me whenI I moved here. I couldn't bare to part with them.

JoAnn did my hair and makeup the day of my prom. The night itself was a disaster. My date and I had nothing in common. What made my prom special was that JoAnn made me look and feel like Cinderella for a night. 

One year, on my mom's birthday, JoAnn and my eighth-grade teacher, invited me to go to a John Denver concert with them. My mom could not believe that I  would consider going out rather than celebrating her birthday with her, but that's what I did. We had pizza at JoAnn's house before going to the concert. It was a fun night. In case you're wondering,, my mom, celebrated her birthday with my brother and his family. And, eventually, she forgave me.

We lost touch for many years. After I contacted her daughter on Facebook, JoAnn and I began emailing each other. When we finally met for lunch it was as though no time had passed. We talked and laughed just like we always had. Our friendship was proof that you don't have to see each other every month to have a bond with a person. You can pick up where you left off no matter how much time has gone by. 

JoAnn was with me the first time I saw Sonny and Cher in concert. She had gotten me a cardboard cutout standee of Cher from a record store. That Cher cardboard cutout stood in my room for years freaking people out.   She did all she could to try to arrange for me to meet Sonny and Cher.  I think she would have driven me anywhere to meet them. I wanted JoAnn to be with me again in 2014 when I saw Cher for the last time. Three weeks before the concert, I sprained my knee. I was sure that I would not be able to go. JoAnn called me when I was in the ER awaiting news on my knee. She assured me that I would go to the concert and we would have a great time.

The morning of the concert, after I found out we would be meeting Cher's BFF, Paulette, I asked JoAnn to get gifts for Paulette to give to Cher. When I talked to JoAnn later in the day, she told me she had googled Cher to help her decide what to buy.The reason I  chose the photo in this post is because Paulette is holding the beautiful flowers and box of candy JoAnn chose for Cher. She was right, we had a great time.

The first time JoAnn came to see me here. I cried and told her how much I wanted to go home. She told me that Cher was a good role model for me because if Cher found herself in my situation she'd find a way to make it work. A few days later she emailed me. At the end of the email she had written, "WWCD?" I knew what she meant.

I learned several weeks ago that JoAnn had passed away. it is hard for me to believe I will never talk to her again.

I love my brothers very much. When I was fourteen  though, all I wanted was a sister. I guess it's a girl thing. I would ask JoAnn repeatedly if she could please be my sister. She would explain to me repeatedly why that was not possible. The time we spoke I reminded her of what I asked her all those years ago. The last thing she said to me before our conversation ended was, "I'm your sister, okay?"

Thank you, JoAnn.  Thank you for being my friend.