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As we approached the bar in the dim lighting I spied a woman that looked so much like one of my friends from St. Louis that I was about to turn around and whisper to Clay, “That girl looks a lot like Melanie.” But, as I took a few more steps I saw her face. OH MY GOSH IT IS MELANIE!
This was HUGE! HUGE!!! HUGE!!!!!
I looked at Melanie and beside her at the bar sat Bryan, her husband, the man I like to call my Brothah from Anothah Mothah, because he acts so much like my father it seems impossible that we’re not related.
These two people rank highest among all humans on the planet for me. So high in fact, that if Clay and I die on the way home, Bryan and Melanie get to raise our kids. I love them dearly.
The thought of seeing Melanie had crossed my mind during the day. I had thought of the possibility that she would be my surprise guest at lunch, but that would be a lot of trouble for Clay to plan and for her to come into town just for my birthday. Wow, was I wrong. I honestly thought the last of my surprises would be Clay and I sharing a quiet dinner together somewhere in our home town. This was over the top, to the moon, bigger than life for me. Here we were in a cozy, locally owned restaurant in a darling part of Kansas City with our greatest friends that live 5 hours away from our home. What a wonderful surprise this was.
I love so many things about Melanie. We joke that she’s the female version of Clay, which is probably why we get along so well. Physically, they are both skinny, struggle with acid reflux and have the most un-humanly dry skin known to mankind. Clay and Melanie have in depth conversations about moisturizers, oils, creams, cracked skin remedies and the skin testing they’ve been through. If you just heard their conversation you would think they were sitting in the middle of a retirement home with their wheelchair safety locks engaged, chatting about all their health problems. The relationship between Clay and Melanie is very sweet. She treats him like the smarter older brother she never had and he treats her with the patience and tolerance that an older brother would have for the pesky, but overly adorable little sister.
The first time Melanie ever called me we talked for three hours. Melanie is ten years younger than me. Every once in a while the age gap will come up where I’ll be telling a story about something from my childhood and she’ll say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m sure it was fun way back then.”
Melanie and I have shared a lot of peaks and valleys in our lives. I was pregnant with my third child when she was pregnant with her first. I knew her then, but we weren’t close friends. Clay came home one night from being out with some guys and told me that one of the men had received a call relating that Melanie had gone into labor a little early and the baby was still born. I sat on my bed and cried for her and Bryan and their baby. A few weeks later we all received what I still believe is the most beautifully written letter by any father I’ve known. Bryan wrote about the loss of his son, Samuel. He shared his unwavering faith that God is sovereign even in this very hard to accept moment of his life. It was eloquently written. If I didn’t know better, I would never have known that the man writing the letter only had the opportunity to be a father for a small, silent moment. The love he had for Samuel was evident. My heart broke for this young couple and their loss.
Several months later Melanie and Bryan were blessed with the news of another pregnancy and the result was a beautiful baby girl with more hair than I’ve ever seen on a baby in my life. Melanie could put pigtails in her newborn’s hair, it was strange and amazing.
A few months after Melanie’s baby girl was born I found out that I was pregnant with our fourth child. I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right from the start. At 12 weeks the doctor told me he couldn’t find a heartbeat. I had never experienced a loss like that before or since. My body fought to hold onto that pregnancy and I eventually had to schedule a D&C. The aftermath was nothing like the doctor had told me, I might spot a bit, but then my cycle would pick up in a month and I’d be back to normal. I bled for three months, a constant reminder that I was not pregnant. I was a hormonally, imbalanced basket case. Finally, my doctor was able to prescribe some drugs that reset my body and I was able to feel a true recovery taking place, the fog lifted and I welcomed the site of life again. I could finally embrace the happiness that was hiding all those months.
During that dark time, Melanie was a life jacket for me. My loss seemed so much different than hers, so much smaller, but she didn’t think so. She was the only woman that called my baby, a baby instead of a pregnancy. Our friendship was born from her compassion for me at a time when I needed it most.
A year later our son Levi was born. I asked Melanie and Bryan if it was okay if we used Samuel for his middle name and they said yes. Nearly two years after Samuel was sadly born too soon, Levi Samuel came into all our lives. I remember so clearly, my good friend Melanie bravely running across a busy four lane street in heels and a dress to deliver me a package of diapers because she was too excited to wait for Bryan to turn onto our street and let her out of the car.
The following year Melanie and Bryan were blessed with a baby boy. My two youngest boys and their children stair-step in age and have the best time playing together, which is good, because their parents like to spend a lot of time playing together too!
Sometimes, when I call to talk to Melanie, Bryan will answer and we’ll get to chatting about the world. Before we know it, we’ve passed the time away and I totally forgot why I was calling Melanie, so I tell him I’ll just call her later. Sometimes, I can hear Melanie yelling in the background, “When your done talking to your best friend tell her I want to talk to her!” I think Bryan and I secretly enjoy irritating her, okay it’s not a secret, we do enjoy irritating her. If Bryan and I lived together our house would be very clean and orderly. We would hold fast to rules, we would live by a schedule, we wouldn’t allow ourselves too much fun and our lives would be based on the most simple things….and everyone would hate us. Which is why we are incredibly happy to have Melanie, who complicates even the best laid plan and has every needless little gadget known to man and Clay who is the soothing balm for all of us. Clay doesn’t allow Bryan, Melanie or I to ever throw any of our psychosis into the fun.
What I love about spending time with Bryan and Melanie is that we can go out to eat or stay in and cook a huge meal or have a bowl of cereal and it’s all the same to them. We just enjoy sharing time together, we don’t need a lot of entertainment. Although, the guys do like to engage in very boring board games that can last an entire weekend, but Melanie and I don’t care, we can sit on the couch and chat until our tongues are dry.
After we were escorted to our table, I was still doing my happy claps because they had driven into town to celebrate with me. And Melanie was still managing to be overly photogenic.
I found out that they had been in town since about 4pm. Melanie had helped Ellen pack my bag for me. No wonder none of my make-up was missing! Ellen was at home babysitting all the kids so we could have a nice dinner together as adults.
The food was amazing. Clay and Bryan ordered a surf and turf dish that came with scalloped potatoes. This photo doesn’t do justice to the meal.
This was my meal. I always have to try the crab cakes. It’s like I’m in search for the perfect one. These were pretty darn good and that steak was delicious.
And this is what the teenager ordered.
I would never choose Melanie to attend a food fair with me. She would have to ask me three billions questions about the ingredients and then she would purposefully choose the cheapest item on the menu. She eats like a toddler and an elderly person put together. It’s just one of her many endearing qualities.
As we sipped our drinks and ate our food I noticed Clay became noticeably more quiet. That morning he had sat on the edge of our bed and said, “Wow, I don’t feel so good.” But, then he’d gone on about his day. I thought he still looked a bit pale and I wondered if I should draw attention to the fact that he didn’t look too good.
…to be continued. Oh, yes, I did! I prolonged it again!