Yesterday Brian and I went to western Indiana to visit our dear friend, Barbara. Barb was the school secretary for decades. (Yes, they called them secretaries then.) She knew everything about the school, the county and the area, and knew everyone living there.
She freely shared her knowledge in 1981 with a young assistant principal named Brian. Her help made his transition to a new county and school so much easier.
Along the way, they became close friends. They laughed at the same things; shared life stories; worked crossword puzzles together.
I was grafted into their friendship and Barb’s wise advice, insights and prompts have been invaluable in my life—and in writing both of my books.
This spring, I asked Barb to serve as one of three editors for my sequel. As an avid reader, woman of faith, and someone meticulous in her own communication skills (and in everything else), she was priceless. I rewrote the lead and swapped two chapters as a result of her thoughts. There were other changes, all designed to make the work better when it is in print. I cannot imagine that a professional editor sitting in a New York City skyscraper could have had better ideas to improve various aspects of these novels.
I am so grateful and blessed. But gracious woman that she is, Barb conveyed that the pleasure was hers!
When we were expecting Sam 29 years ago, Barb hosted a beautiful baby shower in her home, the same lovely house where she still lives. Interesting that a few weeks ago when she was in the waiting room of St. Vincent Hospital where Sam works, he found her and they had lunch together.
We always see Barb in the summer. We drive over and have a great talk openly, sans spin, covering topics that you can’t with many people. Religion, politics, even funerals and thoughts on big life changes are not off limits and are spoken in a “safe place” with Barb.
We discuss the old days, yes, but to a lesser degree, really, than the current topics. This, I have decided, is how you know you are someone’s lifelong friend rather than an ally of circumstance. If all you have to discuss is the one thing that originally brought you together in time and space, it’s probably not a friendship you will go out of your way to nurture into the future.
When we visit Barb, we must go to The Beef House, located with a Covington, Ind. address but close to the border of Illinois, just steps off of Interstate 74. It’s our favorite restaurant, quite simply.
Not only does it have the best salad bar anywhere, not to mention the best yeast rolls, iced tea and cream of broccoli soup, well, I haven’t even mentioned the beef, which is the main event.
That comfortable, spacious restaurant also has special memories. There was the banquet where I laughed so hard at Brian that I nearly needed an EMT. He was stuck in tight quarters over a heat vent and couldn’t move as he melted like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz and the Purdue Glee Club kept on singing. Yes, it was hilarious.
It was the scene of numerous newspaper Christmas parties, and a great reunion with my sweet former coworkers a year and a half ago. It was that “great place to eat” that you took family and friends when they visited us in our very rural county.
The hand-carved wooden bowls on the checkout area were crafted by the late Bill Day of West Lebanon – a wonderful fella whom I did an article on for the paper. I love seeing his handiwork still there.
We plan to see Barb more now that Brian is retired. She isn’t just our friend from the 1980s. She is our dear friend in the here and now. And she always will be.
She is, simply, the best.