This morning I looked at Irene’s picture on the kitchen window sill and said to her, “Irene, I’m not going to give the Tupperware back.”
The small 4 inch square container holds tuna for out sweet kitty, Missy.
Each morning I see Irene’s sweet face smiling back at me from the kitchen window ledge.
Each morning I take her container out of the fridge.
Each morning I feed Missy from that Tupperware container.
Each morning I am thankful for the 20 year friendship that surpassed the deepest friendship one could imagine.
Irene was what is now commonly referred to as my “other mother”. But any common terminology does a disservice and is most unsuitable to describe this unbelievably wonderful and extraordinary woman. I remember the evening after one of our weekly dinners together, I told Irene about my suicidality. She reached over and placed her delicate little arthritic hand on top of mine, looked warmly into my eyes and asked softly, ”Honey, what can I do to help?”
I had known Irene for many years and never told her my secret. But that particular evening I told her all about my 24 year history of fighting daily for my life. After age 32, I began to realize that my brain was actually operating in automatic and I began thinking about suicide even at the most trivial life challenge. This was not something I had control over initially.
When I returned to university to study psychology, I began to understand my brain had been conditioned by the good feeling created when thinking about not being here on earth. My brain had been conditioned over time to relieve my emotional pain by releasing feel-good chemicals (endorphins and other neurochemicals) when I realized I felt hope at the possibility of getting out of pain. And every time I thought about being free of this pain, my brain was flooded with these chemicals and a neural pathway was forged stronger and stronger.
Irene listened patiently as I explained this to her. This was all unfolding so new and so strangely to her. But she still could not understand why anyone would contemplate suicide. But she listened intently. In all of her difficulty in comprehension and admitting her incredulity, she still did not succumb to condescension or shaming me. She accepted my pain as real and she accepted me. And I loved her for it. She gave me the gift of acceptance I could get nowhere else from no one else.
That was the basis of our friendship. When at the end of her life she asked if there was anything I wanted. I told her, I wanted to keep that Tupperware container. Irene instructed me to retrieve it and bring it to her before she died. I did so, whereupon she opened her delicate hand one more time and gave the container to me as if it was a coveted award. And then we laughed and laughed so much we found ourselves holding our sides.
When she passed over, one of Irene’s heirs accused me of taking things from Irene’s apartment. Yup, I did. And, guess what? I’m not giving the Tupperware back.