Just One Flight Of Stairs (Mary and Rhoda)

Valerie Harper

Valerie Harper (Photo credit: AlephNull)

I’ve been upset since I heard the horrific news about Valerie Harper’s incurable brain tumor. Every time I think about “Rhoda” my eyes fill with tears. I couldn’t sleep for a week and I was upset and anxious. How could Rhoda be dying? I was in shock as I’m sure millions of other fans were too.

Rhoda, as we knew her, was Mary’s best friend in the

English: Publicity photo of Mary Tyler Moore a...

English: Publicity photo of Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and they lived in the same building. I had a best friend like that for a little while when I lived in Boston. Similarly, I lived in my upstairs studio and she lived in the downstairs studio. We didn’t have large initials of the letters of our first names hanging on our walls but I was always tempted to buy them. We always compared ourselves to Mary and Rhoda; they were icons in our lives; they were icons of an entire generation.

My old friend and I worked, lived independently, made money and at night, she and I would go out for dinner. On Saturday nights we would wait for the papers to come out, often eating ice cream sundaes, chocolate ice cream for her, vanilla ice cream for me, with whipped cream and loads of gooey hot fudge sauce dripping over the bowl with a red maraschino cherry on top. I’m not sure of this, but I think she gave me hers. We spent a lot of time together for years and during that time, we trusted each other with our lives. Our friendship ended, but I still remember those days, with fondness.

Valerie was told by doctors she has about three months to live. Three months to live is a blink of an eye. Rhoda/Valerie, when your time comes, I hope your loved ones are by your side and the things you love most, or fresh fruit juice so your lips won’t get dry. I pray you are pain-free. (Make sure you are pain-free, make them promise. In writing!)

I’m so happy that at least you know how happy you made all of your fans. We love you, we always will. We laughed because of you. Thank you, Valerie, for all the love and goodness and laughter you brought into the world for so many people. I grew up with you, it will be very hard to say good-bye. It already is. I will try to relish every second while I can, enjoy every day with the utmost of optimism, love like I have never loved before and laugh as much as I possibly can. I hope other people will do it with me, many others. Let’s do it, in honor, of Valerie.  I think she would like that.

Plinky: How Do You Define A Friend?

Hot Glass, Ice Cubes and Room Temp Cola causes...

Image by srboisvert via Flickr

I had a best friend for years, where trust, laughter, love and an eager dining companion perfected my single world.  Her name was Katy and we met in a small apartment building in a suburb of Boston. We were the “Mary” and “Rhoda” of the 80’s. The only thing missing from our studio apartments, one above the other, was the big first initial of our names hanging on the wall, just like Mar had. We met in the tiny laundry room one day where she gave me advice about wrinkles. When she grabbed my clothes from the washing machine, and shook them out, I felt a little uncomfortable.

We had been best friends for years and when I met the boyfriend I would eventually marry, I couldn’t wait to  introduce him to my best friend.  I admit, the first meeting was a little awkward; Katy was polite yet distant. Their was no warmth as we passed vegetable lo mein and chicken with broccoli amongst the three of us.

Later, my husband and I introduced her to the man she would marry, a friend of my husband’s. Katy and Bob were both loners and somewhat eccentric but we took enormous care in matching them up. There was no doubt in my mind that they would take to each other and they did. We danced at their wedding while my husband and I waited for the toast to us the “matchmakers.” There was none. The bride and groom sat alone, away from their family and friends, secluded from their own party. No, I was not the maid of honor.

There were normal friendly disagreements, like in any friendship, yet Katy never wanted to talk things out; she hated any type of confrontation. Looking back, our friendship was at its peak when I constantly placated her. When I became a more confident, independent person she did not like it yet she wouldn’t talk about it either. This started the chilly decline and her withdrawal. All of a sudden the warmth I had initially felt became a fake veneer, breaking glass to reveal nothing but ice.

One devastating situation that I shared with her was when my husband and I were trying to have a baby and I was depressed. She was in my car when I broke down once and sobbed. Back in the late eighties and early nineties no one talked about infertility treatments, it was a hushed topic filled with shame and heartbreak.

After two and a half years of painful infertility treatments I FINALLY got good news. I got a call from the nurse in the doctor’s office telling me I was pregnant; I softly closed the door to my office, sank on the dirty carpet, and wept. We waited through the first trimester with extreme caution telling no one except for immediate family.

I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend the news! She was so special to me I didn’t want to tell her on the phone so I invited her to dinner at her favorite restaurant.  With my voice filled with emotion, my Diet Coke shaking in my cold hands, I told her that I was pregnant and she was going to be an aunt. I waited for her response with tremendous excitement. I was expecting a shout of glee, a warm hug, excitement but there was nothing but silence. Nothing.  What I did get was a frozen expression and a few tears trickling down her face. She wouldn’t even talk; I was in utter shock, deeply disappointed and confused. When I questioned her reaction all she said was “I’m fine.”

What happened later is not my story to tell and I will not share her secrets because it’s not my place.  Her husband confided in us and told too many intimate things. I told Bob that we didn’t want to be put in the middle of their drama, that he should talk to her. He didn’t. When I tried to talk to Katy she denied everything and lied to my face. I can accept a lot in a relationship but lying is absolutely abhorrent to me. Tell me it’s none of my business but do not look me in the eye and lie.

Once pregnant, she dropped me, cold. I didn’t understand. There was nothing I could do to re-establish the bond which I thought was absolutely unbreakable. For many years I tried to reconnect but she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. She made that very clear. I can’t say I didn’t have clues, I had many: the way she treated her parents and only saw them once, maybe twice a year. They were not allowed to visit her in Boston.There were many other signs, I saw the pieces of the puzzle but never put it together until now. She was emotionally damaged and people had been telling me that for years. I just couldn’t believe them, I didn’t want to believe them. My very best friend in the world, not only broke my heart but shattered it. She ended our friendship quickly and abruptly as if she was throwing an emotional grenade in our direction, then she turned and fled. Not looking back. Ever.