Monday, December 22, 2008


My best friend's mother passed away last evening. I'm saddened by the loss, but heartened by the notion that she is, at last, no longer suffering.

Her single greatest attribute was her personality. That sounds odd, perhaps, but what I mean is that her soft-spoken, nurturing, and kindly disposition came to her easily the way I have brown eyes or you have five fingers on each hand. Fran just never had to put on, so to speak.

She was the type of best friend's mother who never got demonstrably angry. At the height of her anger the fiercest you could say she ever got was "a little cross." That set her apart from the adult women in my own life; aunts, mostly, on both sides of my family, whose anger was loud as a whip and never, ever left you in doubt of your transgression.

I knew Franny since birth, literally, when she visited my mother shortly after I was born. She was a nurse in the public school district. I'm not sure why she came to see me. I guess I always thought it was customary. Have a child and the school nurse stops by to check out the goods. This was 1968, mind you.

Or perhaps it was her affiliation with my parent's church, and therefore she came as a friend? I don't really know. I guess my mother's recollection (on which I have to rely because, let's face it, I don't remember) has had me thinking all these years that she came in her professional capacity as a nurse. This is because my mother said she "marked down on the form that you were a "preemie." My mother was appalled. She has insisted I was never premature. I think my mother mistook what she was saying. My mother went full-term, but I was tiny. My mother - and I'm guessing here - must have thought Fran was under the impression I came small and early.

It's neither here nor there.

I'm just relating a story about the first time I "met" Fran Coulombe, my best friend's mother. I imagine her wearing a starched, white nurses uniform, with the little nurses hat, holding me, smiling, cooing to me in that petite voice she always had. It was Minnie Mouse cute. Adorable, even when I became an adult. I loved her childlike, small voice.

Ted, her oldest of two children, and I became friends later on so I spent countless overnights at their house or at their summer camp. Those were the moments you recall later on. The times you spend with the closest of friends. A best friend, and I had but one. And I will say it was because of Franny that Ted became that for me.

I can't recite, with any fairness, why that was. All I can say, at the risk of being unoriginal, is that Fran made me feel like I was more of a son than her son's best friend. To put it another way, I never felt like I was visiting someone's house, but their home. That's the best I can do today. Maybe, as time has worn on, things will clear out and become crystalline.

Her death, late last night, came at the end of about 20 years of battling cancer and the residual effects that the treatment brings about. I'm not intimate with the details, all I know is that she has fought, off and on, since around 1988 when she was first diagnosed and Ted was a student at Bates College.

I am glad she is with her God this morning.

I am grateful that she finally must not have to fight and that she can be forever at peace.

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