It's not often I'm able to get together with four of my closest friends--at the same time. The last time all five us were together was at my birthday a couple of years ago, where Ken orchestrated two of them who came the furthest (St. Louis and Los Angeles) as surprises. Alan, Kathy, Retta, Tina and I comprised "the A-List"--what we named ourselves when we met while studying at Second City--and they have been constants in my life ever since. We share the "wrongest" pleasure in harassment of each other as much as we are fiercely protective of one another. Having grown up the outsider in many ways, and the one who found "apartness" so appealing, the A-List was the first group I ever felt like a belonged to. It was my tribe…finally and effortlessly.
I've been in contact with all of them in one way or another always, and in particular, since Ken's cancer returned last year. I was checked upon and double-checked upon; I have called, texted and emailed while I vented or cried or ranted. I can imagine there may have been communications among the four of them I'm not even aware of. So, it was with great relish that I looked forward to the four of them converging on my apartment this weekend for a long-anticipated and much-needed reunion. There have been few times in recent months where sorrow isn't something that I have to actively combat. The time spent with the A-list is one of them. I remember noticing that in between laughter and conversations and jabs; that I felt transported and "normal" and loved. During the time I spent with them I didn't feel empty or missing anything. I was whole--complete in every way I needed to be--and loving every single second of it.
There is a power and an energy that is purely magical when the five us are together. And though the anticipation sets the bar high, the actual time together always exceeds expectations--and boundaries. There are certain things that can be counted upon in such cases: ripping on each other mercilessly, mad laughter as a result thereof, and the same reminiscences about "the good ol' days". Old stories shimmer like new with long-forgotten nuances, uncovered and embellished.
I was excited to have company so I could get busy in the kitchen and try out some recipes I've had ear-marked for quite a while. Feeding these people I love so much, and hearing their voices and laughter fill my back yard all afternoon and evening--then my apartment as we moved indoors later in the evening--filled me with a sense of peace and security that was both familiar and foreign. Knowing I have these people in my life with their non-stop love and unfailing support of me is great source of strength.
In spite of the fun of the weekend, Ken was never far from my mind--as always. He loved the A-List--perhaps an acquired taste for spouses to manage--and he appreciated what I had with them; and what they gave me. When it came to having company, Ken was the master chef, getting creative and delighting in serving tasty morsels to our guests. I'm sure that's at least part of the reason why I did too. Doing things he loved makes me feel connected him. Honoring him in even the smallest of ways makes me happy. He loved our friends and he would have loved seeing all the goodies I made: Lemon Blueberry Buckle, Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers, and Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Profiteroles.
I wish I could feel the way I did this weekend every day--especially in light of an impending Monday. It's impossible to come off such a high without wishing he were here to end the weekend with, talking about all the verbal debauchery, reliving it and laughing at it. Regardless, it was undeniable that Ken was here this weekend; inspiring me to get excited and creative in the kitchen (not to mention to sweep the patio--something he did without prompting every time we had company). He was also here in another very special way. Our friend Bruce competed in the Chicago Triathlon today in memory of his sister-in-law and Ken. It was a beautiful gesture that is so fitting of Ken.
He was definitely here this weekend--just not in the way I wish he were.