“Are we not like two volumes of one book?” –Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
My friend Ida Mae is one of my heroes.
In 1997, our son Josh was a toddler and I was pregnant with Julia. We were new to town and I was desperately missing my friends in PA and CT. We decided to visit a church in Narragansett one Sunday and that is where Ida Mae and I first met. It didn’t take long before we were talking daily on the phone, which would inevitably result in gales of laughter. Oh, the laughter…the kind where tears stream down your face and your stomach muscles hurt.
We complete each other’s sentences, can read each other’s minds, and joke that we are so similar that surely we must have been separated at birth. Although I left Rhode Island eleven years ago, our friendship has continued unabated.
The first time we went out to dinner with our husbands, we spent most of the night discovering even more things that we had in common…including the unlikely fact that at one time, we were both bitten on our behinds by a German shepherd and as a result, live in fear of this particular breed! After listening to this for quite a while, Jim turned to Doug and said:
“Hey Doug, when you mail a letter, do you put a stamp on it?”
“Why, yes, Jim, I do!”
Wise guys. 🙂
For the record, here is one of my favorite photos of the four of us: Jim, Ida Mae, me, and Doug:
Our adventures always seem to end in laughter.
In particular, there was one afternoon when we went with Jim and Doug to see Mission Impossible. Like all good girlfriends do, we left the movie at one point to go to the ladies room together. The moment we hit the lobby, we began to talk a mile a minute and our chat continued the entire time we were in the restroom. As we were washing our hands, we suddenly noticed that there were urinals present. Our eyes widened with surprise and we said said to each other, “This must be a uni-sex bathroom!”
Because who wouldn’t come to that conclusion???
Until we came into the lobby and saw a man standing there, arms crossed. Unsmiling and clearly not amused, he said, “Ladies that is not a ‘unisex bathroom.’ You were in the men’s room!”
We laughed so hard that we could not even go back into the theater for at least 10 minutes.
When Ida Mae came to visit me in Florida, we decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory one evening. As usual, the line was a long one, so she volunteered to leave our names with the hostess and we sat down to wait our turn. When the hostess finally stepped forward with two menus in hand, she called out “Bubbles Yablonksy, party of two?”
To my great dismay, Ida Mae jumped up and propelled me forward. “That’s us, Bubbles!” she said loudly, barely able to contain her laughter at the quizzical looks of our fellow patrons.
Laughter is the constant thread that runs through our friendship and I treasure that.
Yet, as we all know, life can be hard and we have also shared many tears as well. We have been there for each other through the death of our fathers, health scares, heartaches, parenting difficulties, hospitalizations, moves, job layoffs, etc.
Jim and Ida Mae have four children and two of them have special needs. Their two oldest, Meagan and Andrew are now in the their 20s and are accomplished young people. Emily and Daniel are both school age. I have watched in amazement as Ida Mae has selflessly served as caretaker, absolutely fearless and tireless advocate, nurse, head cheerleader, and above all, loving mother to Emily and Daniel. Their needs are vast and numerous and at times, can be overwhelmingly heartbreaking. Their pain pierces Ida Mae’s (and Jim’s) heart like a knife. Sometimes there are just no words. Only tears and anguished prayer.
Yet, my friend is a fighter. She clings to her God tenaciously and chooses to believe His promises even when she doesn’t understand. She does not indulge in self-pity; she revels in the privilege of being a parent. She would be the first to tell you that the joys of parenting special needs children far outweigh the hard times.
Emily and Daniel both have a light that I have rarely seen in other people. They know they are loved unconditionally. They take the greatest joy in the simplest of things. Daniel has a delightful sense of humor. He loves swimming, playing outside, popcorn, wrestling with his older brother Andrew, and can recite entire scenes from his favorite movies. Emily is a people-person who has never met a stranger. She is passionate about motorcycles, Nascar, and chicken nuggets…not necessarily in that order. 🙂 Both have won gold medals in the special Olympics. I consider myself all the richer for having known them.
Over the years, Ida Mae has taught me what it means to live like Christ: to lay one’s life down for others. To serve. To love. To give. To pour out one’s life like a drink offering. To trust that we are always in the loving care of our Heavenly Father, no matter what our circumstances may be.
This weekend, Ida Mae told me that one of her favorite songs that she turns to again and again when life is hard is a song by David Phelps called “No More Night”. It is a daily reminder that this life is not all there is. There is coming a day when all tears will be wiped away by the nail-scarred hand of our Savior forever, all will be healthy and whole, and the very heavenly air we breathe will be joy. I’ve included the link to the song below and I hope it blesses you.
And don’t forget to celebrate your friends today. They truly are gifts.