Flying Solo

Photo by Alistair Morris, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Alistair Morris, Flickr Creative Commons

I wrote this in January but didn’t have the heart to post it. Last month, my dad died, and I thought about this . . . written during another period of mourning. It seems fitting to post now, and maybe in another few months I’ll be able to post what I’ve just written about my dad. Today, please join me in celebrating the life of Eva Thompson.

When our kids were growing up, my very good friend Eva and I sent emails to one another when we were worried about something. We called them Worried Mother Alerts, almost immediately shortened to WMAs. If I got an email from Eva with WMA in the subject line, I’d open it right away, knowing she needed some support. She did the same for me.

When our kids were younger, it was always small stuff. School and teacher struggles. Heartbreak after one wasn’t invited to a beach party; anxiety after one was invited to a co-ed overnight prom party. One didn’t get a part in a play she had her heart set on, one was taking a solo train trip.

As the kids got older, the stakes got higher.

Once, while studying abroad, Eva’s daughter was stranded in Europe, traveling alone at night, and she’d lost her credit card. By the time I got the WMA, Eva had already come up with a solution, but she needed to write to someone who understood her worry and fear. I did. Eva was there for me, too, when my daughter moved across the country to San Francisco after finishing college.

Two worrying moms always seemed better than one. It certainly lightened the load. Made us feel like we weren’t quite alone in our fears. Like we didn’t need to worry as much as we thought we did. I think, although I never verified this with Eva, that I was the bigger worrier. I certainly had a more vivid imagination about what could go wrong—being a writer and all, Eva frequently said—and I was the bigger crier. Eva said she’d only cried twice in her whole life.

Eva would talk me down, tell me everything would be okay. She was always right.

Soon, we expanded the WMA. When my husband was laid off from his job and suffered from depression, I reached out to Eva with a WWA (Worried Wife). And when Eva received her cancer diagnosis four years ago, I sent her this email:

I’ve added you to my WMA list, flying this one solo.

That’s the day I came up with the WFA (Friend).

Eva wasn’t a big one for phone calls. We’d meet for lunch or coffee once a month or so, always arranged via email, occasionally texts. In fact, I only ever talked to Eva on the phone three times over our twenty-some-year friendship.

Once when we got our lunch places mixed up—she was on one end of town, I on the other. Once when I was trying to find her house after she moved. And once when she got the news that her cancer treatment wasn’t working, and they’d told her she had about six months to live.

Eva cried that day.

I cried, too.

And I cried last week when I heard the news I’d been dreading —my friend Eva had died. I sent texts to a few good friends to tell them, but it wasn’t quite the same. They’d never met Eva, just knew I had a friend who wasn’t doing very well. And they didn’t know anything about the WMA. I’d never really even told my husband about it—I don’t know if Eva ever told hers—not about the formal program, anyway.

To be honest, the WMA never entered my mind when I first heard about Eva’s death. But this morning I woke up sad and full of worry. My daughter called yesterday to tell me she’s moving four hours away. It’s a move dictated by her studies, not her first-choice location, and I cried when she told me—so she did, too—worried about me. I’d felt lucky that since her move to San Francisco, she’d returned to the east coast and was a quick two-hour hop from home. Now, she’d be way far up in the tippy top of Maine.

Eva’d have understood.

I felt selfish after I cried. Here I am, I’ll be fine. My daughter, too. So, I’ll drive a little farther to see her—is that so bad? As my daughter said after she told me: “It’s not like it’s San Francisco or anything, Mom.”

It’s the kind of thing Eva would have written in her return email.

But it wasn’t that. It was the realization. The letting go. Knowing that I’ll never again get an email from Eva with the WMA subject line. That I’ll never again be able to send a WMA email to her and share my worry . . . or sadness.

WFA. My good friend Eva died, and I miss her so much.

Eva would’ve understood. And now all I can do is cry.