Coming Home

by Karen Kinley

My Dear Friend,

We have known each other since we could barely talk. But once we got started, we never stopped! There wasn’t a topic that was off limits during those endless childhood years.

girls whispering 417 | For Every Mom

We chatted about school and boys and clothes and the boobs we hoped to have someday. We gossiped about the nasty, popular girls at school. We sang our favorite songs at the top of our lungs on warm summer evenings. We shared every hope, dream, and the occasional secret with each other behind closed doors. Oh, the hours we spent doing that!

I have very few memories in my life that don’t include you. When I look back, your smiling face was right there at nearly every significant moment. You should know that this fact warms my heart more than you could possibly know.

But that’s not why I’m writing to you today. 

I’m writing to tell you that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that when I went to high school, I ignored you. 

You were a grade behind me, and I was trying to start a new chapter. I joined the theater group and tried out for field hockey. Life was busy, and I lacked the time for our marathon late-night discussions. But finding a friend as good as you turned out to be impossible. I was happy you didn’t hold a grudge.

I’m sorry that I got married and moved away.

Three years after graduation, you stood by my side as maid of honor at my wedding. Your dress was lavender, and I can’t remember if I ever told you how beautiful you looked that day. When James got transferred, I could’ve filled a bucket with your tears.

I’m sorry that I forgot your birthday too many times.

My calendar reminded me, but there were years when your birthday escaped my attention. I have no excuse, for birthdays were sacrosanct when we were kids. The all-consuming joy of childhood birthdays included balloons, birthday punches, and scavenger hunts to find the gifts.

I’m sorry that sometimes I was too wrapped up in my job and my kids and my book club.

College was hard for you, but I let my jealousy of your talent get in the way. I should’ve supported you and offered to help when it got overwhelming. I’ve never forgiven myself for missing your first gallery opening. The painting you sent me still has a place of honor in my home all these years later.

I’m sorry that when you miscarried your firstborn that I didn’t rush to your side.

You might think I was callous for not coming, but the truth is that I was so shattered by the news that I would’ve been no comfort at all. The thought that I could’ve lost one of my own babies unhinged me in a way I never expected. I was certain that others would be better equipped to soothe your pain. I know now that I was wrong.

I’m sorry that when you finally bore a son I lived too far away to properly spoil him.

The miles between us meant that I missed watching your son grow up in the incremental way that makes those tiny moments so meaningful. Instead, I had to settle for mailing gifts and sending waves via Facetime. I wish I could’ve known him better.

I’m sorry that when our families went skiing together in Colorado that I didn’t stay with you for one more cup of coffee while we watched the sun rise that day.

Early one morning while our families slept, we slipped outside on the balcony, steaming cups in our hands. We wordlessly watched the sun come up over the mountains as the sky transformed from scarlet to marmalade to honey. So much was said in our silence. But the draw of my laptop and a few quiet moments without the clatter of children proved too hard to resist, and I left you to sit out there alone. What I wouldn’t give to sit beside you right now.

I’m sorry that as we watched our children graduate from high school and then college that I didn’t take more photos of us together.

Of course, we recorded these important milestones in life with group photographs, shoulders pressed together, arms dangling awkwardly, pride in our smiles. I only wish that we had preserved some memories of us during these occasions. We should have had the foresight to take photos of just the two of us, our arms around each other, the passage of time marked by our thickening waistlines and visible crow’s feet.

I’m sorry that, when my husband left, I let the bitterness fester and pushed you away.

That was a very difficult time in my life. I know I should’ve let you come to help me through that transition, but you and your happy marriage only accentuated my failure. It took time, but I slowly got back on my feet. I know you were heartbroken that I wouldn’t let you be a comfort to me. How much I wish I could talk to you about it now.

I’m sorry that cancer found you instead of me.

I flew back to accompany you to chemo treatments, chatting all the while to pass the time. Yet somehow you always seemed to make me laugh. As your body got weaker, our conversations waned, but your smile remained ever-present. How I wish I could’ve changed places with you. Your husband’s red-rimmed eyes told me it was too late.

But most of all, my dear, dear sister…

I’m sorry that our story, so unfinished, ends here.

2 thoughts on “Coming Home

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