The lifelong bestie
When I was five years old, sporting a bowl cut and a terrible case of bashfulness, my parents placed me in a local summer theater program. The show that year was “The Wizard of Oz,” and the entire production was done by kids. We made the tickets, helped with the costumes, built the sets, and of course, acted in it. One day after the summer experience, I heard a knock on the front door at home. Standing there was a little girl my age (four months younger, to be exact) with a bicycle. She said, “I’m in the play with you, and I live down the street. Want to come ride bikes?” That was all it took. Lezly and I were inseparable from then on.
Lezly was the first person I’d ever met that was shyer than me, and she made me feel like the brave, outgoing girl I wanted to be. My father used to speak Spanish to Lezly, teasing her because she never spoke to anyone. He joked that she must not speak English. (I’ve discovered it’s genetic, because I see that 5-year-old all over again today, in Lezly’s daughter, Lundyn.)
Even though Lezly and I lived only four houses apart, we attended different schools. We remained close, playing after school, meeting up at the streetlight that was on the corner. We traded clothes constantly, explored the woods in our neighborhood, was tormented by Lezly’s older sister, only to be asked by her to play hide & seek the next day. (Young girls are fickle, you know.) We had matching scooters, mine mint green, hers purple. We prank-called boys that we thought were cute, stayed up all night too many times to count, and constructed forts made from Lezly’s Miss Piggy sheets. Lezly was by my side through my parents’ separation at 12, and my father’s heart attack that followed on the heels of the divorce announcement.
We finally got to attend school together when we reached high school, Lezly as a freshman, and me as a sophomore. I cursed that four months that put us in different grades. We made it through high school side by side. I was a band geek, and Lezly was a pom girl with a fantastic talent for dance. (The ironic thing is that she’s actually kind of clumsy!) I graduated, spent one last summer with her, then shipped off to boot camp in San Antonio. When I returned four months later, it was as if I never left. The next fall, we headed off together to be roommates at Oklahoma State University. They say to never live with your best friend, but nothing terrible ever happened. We pledged the same sorority and made all of the same friends. After a couple of years, though, Lezly decided that OSU wasn’t for her, and she moved to Norman to live with her sister.
A short time later, something happened that would change Lezly’s life forever; she met her future husband. After a few months, she announced to me that Jason had a job offer in Houston, and she was going with him. I was shocked, and bummed that she was moving away even further. But we stayed close, nonetheless. I visited Houston a few times. Lezly and Jason got married and had a bouncing baby boy, after which Jason got another job and they moved back to Tulsa. Soon they welcomed a baby girl, and their family was complete. And completely adorable. Somewhere in all that mess, I got married, and Lezly served as my maid of honor. My dad died, and Lezly was there for me. Right after I lost my dad, I decided that my choice of husband wasn’t the best, and I asked for a divorce. Lezly supported me throughout the whole ordeal. She served as my matron of honor in my second wedding (to Jason’s brother), the one that would seal us finally as the sisters we’ve always wanted to be.
This past January, Lezly’s 33-year-old husband, Jason, went in for a colonoscopy. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. The next six months transformed Lezly into a mixture of Wonder Wife and Supermom. More time was spent in hospitals than at home, and Lezly managed to be with her husband and her children, through some amazing shuffling and excellent time management. Jason lost his battle this past July, one hour and 20 minutes after my husband’s 30th birthday ended. Suddenly, turning 30 didn’t seem so important, and all of those cougar jokes seemed trite and trivial.
The day I watched my 30-year-old best friend choose her husband’s casket was one I will never forget. Throughout it all, while her life was turned upside-down, she carried on with a grace and dignity that I can never hope to achieve. Though plenty of curses were spoken, and endless tears were shed, she remains to me the strongest person I have ever, and will ever, know.