I came home yesterday to find a card in my mailbox. I thought it was a delinquent Christmas card from my friend Stephanie. It was from her sister...telling me that Stephanie had died and to call her, she would give me more details.
I met Stephanie at work. She was among a group of new administrators, I was a consultant, and we were all at a team building workshop led by Wayne State University professor. The company was split into two groups for one exercise. Stephanie and I landed on the same team. The exercise included a number of negotiations between teams in which a light bulb was supposed to go on and we were supposed to discover how to develop win-win scenarios. Steph and I missed that. Both of us had highly competitive natures and we focused on WINNING, causing so much havoc with the other team. Despite admitting that we were wrong and that we had indeed learned from our mistake and indeed could see how a win-win scenario was the best outcome, some never forgave us. But our friendship had begun.
When six of us from the company decided to take group golf lessons, our friendship was framed. We bought our golf clubs together. Somehow Steph talked me into buying a pink golf bag so we could all having matching bags. I still can't believe I let her talk me into that. We golfed together at least once a week and boy, did we have some adventures. We had the "serial killer stalking incident", we had a time we were almost killed when we almost drove our golf cart off a cliff we didn't know was there, and the only picture I know for sure I have of Steph is from the time I accidentally threw her out of the golf cart when we were trying to buzz some other golfers. It was amazing because she landed prostrate on the ground but did not spill one drop of the drink she had been holding. The picture has me posing with one foot on her back, like a prize hunter standing over her kill. We were sub par golfers but golfed everything from par 3 to nationally acclaimed courses. We didn't take the game or ourselves too seriously.
I left the company to raise my daughter. Around the same time, Stephanie left to join another company. She hired me as an independent consultant which basically was the start of my own business. I worked for her for many years. Even after I decided to quit the business and become a stay-at-home mom, I kept consulting for Steph. We helped each other reach some personal business goals. I had always wanted to record older people's life stories on audio/visual for their families. She had always wanted to put a park in at a nursing home, complete with waterfall and gazebo. She hired me to write grants for both of these projects and we were awarded both grants. I remember sitting with her on a swinging bench next to the 8 foot tall slate waterfall, just sharing the moment of a dream fulfilled.
There are so many cherished memories I have of Stephanie. Like the time we went to see the late showing of Basic Instinct with another friend. There were only about 6 other people in the theater and I am sure we scared them because for some reason I cannot remember, every time Sharon Stone brought out the ice pick, we started to laugh uncontrollably. Steph was very smart and she and my husband would play partners against a whole room full of people and still win at Trivial Pursuit. Once, my husband decided to take our daughter to Disney World after she had received a perfect score at her music testing. I was telling Steph about it at work and it turned out her cousins from Israel were going to be there at the same time. She decided to come with us. We didn't tell her cousins and when they went to check in at their hotel, there we all were with Steph to welcome them. It was so much fun. When she learned that my family was vacationing on the east coast and would be in Newport, RI she made me promise to visit the Red Parrot Restaurant because they had the best food she had ever eaten. We did, it did and we went back there the next year. One of my daughter's favorite Christmas decorations is the Dickens music box from Aunt Stephanie. Yes, she was Aunt Stephanie to my daughter. Steph's middle name was Rachel and Steph always claimed that my daughter was named after her. She liked to point out how odd it was to have a Jewish first name and an Irish last name.
It is amazing that Stephanie and I shared a friendship that spanned almost 20 years because we couldn't be more different. She was Jewish and I a Christ follower. She couldn't stand converted Jews, yet we often talked about faith and our religions and what they meant to us. She was older than me and single. I was married. Stephanie's mom was in a concentration camp in Poland when she was pregnant with Stephanie. I had not experienced prejudice. She was a declared liberal. I was conservative. She was pro-choice. I was pro-life. We often talked about when a fetus became a "person" but we never came to an agreement on that. She was into modern decor while I preferred antiques and an eclectic range from victorian to traditional, but nothing modern. Funny that I was the one who helped her pick out furnishings for her new condo....all very very sleek and modern in style. We didn't watch the same television shows...she liked QVC and the cooking channel. I never watched those unless I was over her house. Religion, politics....things we were mostly on opposite sides of the fence on, never kept us from a friendship. We laughed our heads off. Had a few times we cried together. We helped each other and knew that the other was always there for us. Stephanie was not a warm fuzzy person. I am. I can't remember Steph and I ever telling each other that we loved each other. We may have hugged on occasion. I have no regrets with Stephanie, though. We had the kind of friendship where things could be left unsaid. And, that could pick right back up if we didn't see each other for a while. We were secure in our friendship.
I loved Stephanie. We were great friends.