“I’ve never been to Montréal. I’m only asking because you’re a Canadian and may have at least been to the city before…”
That’s how the email started. My first thought was, “wait, Denise is coming to Montréal?”
I knew I would try to meet her. We’ve been online pals for a year or so, and she’s one of the faithful friends–one who looks for me if I’ve been quiet. It’s nice to be missed. I sent her a reply, answering her question.
I included a note that said, “and, by the way, I don’t want to intrude on your time there, but could we have brunch?”
Denise’s reply came back immediately. She didn’t say yes. She didn’t even acknowledge the question.
I deflated. Four minutes later, another email arrived. “Our messages crossed! I would LOVE to see you!!!”
That’s how Denise DiNoto and I met in Montréal, and when I first saw her coming towards me in this fantastic fuchsia dress, my initial thought was, “What an elegant woman!” She truly is. Articulate, graceful, adventurous and kind, I loved talking with her, and the time we spent together was far too short. It was without question, one of the best days of my summer (read her take on it here). I have long admired her writing. She regularly posts intelligent and thoughtful words, and she challenges my thinking. She gave me some of the most important insight to my second manuscript. We have participated in challenges together, first to write 500 words a day–the online community where we first connected–and then, to be more mindful of our social media interactions. I learn from Denise nearly every day, and I think she learns from me. There is a respectful exchange of ideas and support which I value.
Denise’s life requires her to be dependent on others in a way I know would be difficult for me. I’m a go-it-alone person. I’ve been in situations where options to be otherwise have been removed. Denise has been placed in a situation where she must rely on others for most of what I take for granted. It’s been important for me to watch how that plays out, to learn how my way– necessary though it may have been–is no longer the way it has to be. I’ve experienced her humour and grace from our emails, and isn’t it fantastic to get to know someone through regular written exchanges that have depth to them? Now I’ve had the opportunity to hear her laugh and her voice in person, and it’s added an additional layer to her writing.
I’ve since learned, the woman placed first in a State beauty pageant, second in the national one. I also know, she’s never without a lipstick–or ten. This amuses me. I might own one. I’d have to check.
Our culture has cheapened the meaning of the word “friend” to mean someone who might know someone who might know someone you might know. Denise is not that kind of friend. She’s the real deal, and she cares for the people in her life with heart and soul.
Today’s her birthday, and I’m celebrating not only the woman herself, but the gifts she has brought to my life. She’s my friend. The old-fashioned kind.