Remembering Frieda

Frieda, a dear friend and one of my earliest blog followers, died on Monday. She was a great, great lady in my book. Old enough to be my mother, she and her sister, Tresa, were role models in many ways but particularly when it came to sisterhood. Now those ladies knew what it meant to be sisters. They were practically joined at the hip. You hardly ever ran into one without the other.

Watching the two of them together has given me hope about sistership with Jerri. Tresa once confided they hadn’t been that close when they were growing up. Neither were Jerri and me. I was the favored child and anyone who’s ever had to live in the shadow of “the favored one” knows what that’s like. She hated me. We bickered incessantly, told on each other, read each other’s diaries, vied for each other’s boyfriends, used each other’s stuff without asking. And then we were estranged for almost 25 years.

I suspect that Frieda and Tresa’s paths may have parted for a time as well. I’ll have to remember to ask Tresa about that. You would never have known it though by watching them. They were genuinely fond of each other, always laughing and teasing. Oh I saw them disagree a time or two but never heatedly. And I never heard either of them ever say an unkind word about the other. Now that is truly something.

When I first moved Jerri to Durham and had just started to realize I’d bitten off more than I could chew, I sent out an urgent email to a number of women I knew would rally around me in prayer. Frieda and Tresa were both in that list along with several of you who follow this blog. I can’t tell you what your support has meant.

20120428-234634.jpgThe last time I saw Frieda was a few months ago at the Eno River Eatery. On Sunday’s, Stan likes to grab a waffle there and it also seems to be a regular haunt for “The Ladies” as we often run into them. The Ladies, in addition to Tresa and Frieda, include their two friends, Joyce and Martha. They’ve been a foursome for almost as long as I’ve known them. On that particular Sunday, my sister, Jerri, was with Stan and me. Frieda knew all about Jerri’s illness, of course, from the blog.

One of the really sad things about mental illness is the loss of dignity. People treat you like you aren’t human, like you have no feelings, like you don’t matter. People don’t touch you, they look away and try to avoid interaction. That morning at Eno River, The Ladies came over to our table and Frieda plopped down right next to Jerri. She talked and teased and treated Jerri like she was one of the girls.

I called Jerri this week and told her one of The Ladies from Eno River had died. “It was Frieda,” I said. “Do you know which one she was?” Jerri said, “Yes, the one who sat next to me.” And I could tell by the way she said it, she’d been deeply touched simply by being treated like a human being. That was Frieda.

After the funeral on Friday, I took my place in the motorcade to the cemetery. We had quite a procession. Several policemen escorted us on motorcycles, lights flashing, racing to the intersections to hold the traffic. Not a single driver seemed put out. They all moved docilely off the shoulder and waited solemnly for us to pass. We wound through the Trinity section of old Durham, past stately homes with gardens in full flower. At one house, a man who’d been on his knees in his garden, stood up, took off his cap and held it against his chest as we passed. I had the oddest sensation I was somehow a part of something way bigger than me and that we were celebrating a far greater person than even I knew. I could almost hear Frieda saying, “All these people. All this is for me?”

Tonight I believe she’s hanging out with Wade in a place more beautiful than I can imagine. It’s been about 9 years since she’s seen him. The thought of it makes me smile.

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One Comment on “Remembering Frieda”

  1. Terri, I’m so sorry about the loss of your good friend. It sounds like she was a good friend to have, through good times and bad.

    My little sister by two years and I regularly fought almost to the death until I left for college. The first time I came home for a break, somehow all that was put aside, and we never fought like that again. Our paths have taken us in different directions over the past several decades, but we always laugh like crazy (usually at our mother) when we get together. Lately, I’ve been more sensitive to the need that time passes too quickly, and we need to make sure we have more good times.


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