"I've decided that perhaps I'm bulimic and just keep forgetting to purge."

-- Paula Poundstone

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Through laughter and tears …

I thank you for allowing me to wander off topic today to tell you about my friend Tara and her wonderful parents.

Tara and I have been friends since we were kids. We did some amazingly stupid and amazingly fun things together throughout the years.

Tara’s mom, Vicki, was the apartment manager for what we called “The Projects” in my hometown, and her dad, Big Jerry, was the town cop.

Yes, you read that right. The town cop. We had one.

Growing up with Tara was always a little like having a “big” sister because though she is six months younger than I am, she always seemed more mature, more knowledgeable.

With Tara, I saw my first drunk person, got drunk myself for the first time, attended my first slumber party, went on my first double date and learned A LOT about boys.

Tara and I were even in a police chase together, and we were both underage drivers.

But that’s another story for another time.

Tara’s brothers, especially Little Jerry, treated me like another little sister. If Little Jerry was beating the crap out of Tara, he’d beat the crap out of me, too, for good measure.

I don’t know how we didn’t drive their parents completely insane.

One time, I had spent the night with Tara and was getting ready the next morning for church.

I climbed up on their bathroom sink to fix my hair, and all of a sudden, the sink separated from the wall and went crashing to the floor.

I was horrified.

I ran and got Tara, tears streaming down my face. She walked in, eyes as round as saucers, and said she had to get her dad.

I begged her not to.

Well, she couldn’t just leave the sink in the floor, she explained, so I waited, crying in the bathroom, until she brought back her dad to view the destruction.

Big Jerry walked in, took one look and started laughing hysterically. Within seconds, he had tears on his cheeks, too.

It took a long time to understand why he would laugh at something like that.

No yelling, no judgment. Just gotta fix it and move on, he said.

I remembered that story and his character vividly when Tara texted me March 7 to say he had died.

He took a nap and never woke up. He was 61.

Vicki had the same good character and patience as her husband.

When Tara, Little Jerry and I were young, we had a food fight that completely covered Vicki’s always-spotless kitchen with the dinner she had worked so hard to prepare for us.

I can still see her walking in the kitchen and standing in the doorway as a just-thrown slab of roast beef slid down the wall near her head, leaving a trail of gravy.

We’d better get it cleaned up fast, she said, before turning and walking away.

Also when we were kids, we would make Vicki watch “Dirty Dancing” every chance we had.

It was mine and Tara’s favorite movie.

Vicki was the only person I knew who would cry every single time it got to the end, and Johnny and Baby were doing the final night’s dance.

“I’ve Had the Time of My Life” … cue Vicki’s crying.

It took a long time to understand why she would cry at something like that.

I remembered those stories when Tara told me Wednesday that her mother had died, too.

Just 17 days after Big Jerry died, Vicki went to meet him in heaven. She was 63.

In August, they’ll celebrate 40 years of marriage.

I picture there will be dancing.

There will be laughter.

And there will be tears.

I fully understand why they’ll laugh and cry at something like that.

Peace, love and laughter, Vicki and Jerry. You’re together again.

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