Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today is my dear friend's 33rd 43rd birthday.  Her name is Dena, but I renamed her "Denta" years ago after I saw a Dinty Moore commercial and thought it would be hilarious.  I'm not sure why I made this connection, but it still cracks me up every time I call her this.  We met when we were Democratic pages for the Illinois State House of Representatives- the summer after high school for me and the summer after her first year of college for her.  We were inseparable accompanying each other on food runs for the representatives or hiding out in the Bill Room.  We both thought a fellow page, the nephew of a representative, was cute, but he only had eyes for her which came as no surprise since she has this glow about her and the most infectious smile.  I listened with wide eyes when she told me about their make out session in his uncle's office and cried hysterically when this summer with her came to an end.

A few years later, we lived together in Virginia Beach.  Together, we fell in love with the beach and the ocean and the sun (apologies to our skin) and tried to find our ways in life.  She, I might add, was speedier at finding her path.  I, in turn, took some wrong turns and ran into some dead ends.

Married to a man in the Air Force, she has lived on both coasts.  While on the East Coast, she and her husband made an intentional out-of-the-way detour to my apartment in small-town Illinois while I was nursing what I thought to be a broken heart.  Although we hadn't seen each other in years, we hooted it up as if no time had passed at all.  I cried when she left.

When my father passed away, I picked up the phone as soon as I left his house and called her.  Her response, "Do you need me to come?"  Just saying these words to me made me feel better, but I told her not to come.  I was relieved his body was finally at peace.

When I told her the doctor declared me infertile, she called me and invited my hub and me to Savannah in order to celebrate her 35th birthday, what she felt was a HUGE milestone.  Down in the dumps and fearful of flying, I said we wouldn't make it out, but she wouldn't take anything but "yes" for an answer.  So, we went (I've always done what she says)- celebrated her birthday, ate chicken and waffles, explored Tybee Island- and I had uncontrollable sobs at the airport when we left.

When I called to tell her I had breast cancer and was going to undergo a double mastectomy, she said, "I'll come."  Crying, I told her not to because I was okay with it. . . just wanted it over.  

When I shared I had signed up to walk 39.3 miles in support of breast cancer research, she said, "Where do I sign up?"  In a nasty storm, she flew from Maryland to Chicago for the sole purpose of walking these two days with me;  this was the first time we'd seen each other in 7 years.  She not only raised the exorbitant amount of money (I had misread the rules) in order to participate in the walk, but she managed to pull my rump from bed that first morning at 5 a.m. in order to catch the bus to our starting point.  26 miles later, we (okay me) gorged on the food offered at the first day's stopping point.  On the bus ride back to the hotel, I told her I wasn't feeling well and then proceeded to vomit all over her shoes.  She gathered me up and settled me into our room.  After popping all of the blisters on the bottom of my feet, I passed out.  The next morning, Denta was up and brushing her teeth.  I told her we could skip the last 13+ miles, but she wouldn't have it.  She said, "I flew here to walk 39.3, so I'm going to do it."  We ended up doing it together, me limping and her looking as if she'd barely broken a sweat.  The day after the walk, I left our hotel room first because I knew I would cry, and I did.

Grateful this magnificent spirit entered my life 25 years ago and has remained, I find it hard to believe she's 43, and I'm a year younger (heeheehee!).  When I'm with her, it still feels as if we're 18 and 17.  I love her, always have and always will.  So, happy birthday Denta as well as happy friendship day

A Birthday Video to Me from Denta

by Courtney Winkler

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