“Only you can call me Monkey,” she told me a couple months ago.
“It makes me smile every time.”
Monkey – my former girlfriend and current longtime pal – lives far far away with her husband and children. I have known her since 1981, and dated her off & on for about six years. Our family sees their family infrequently due to the distance between us. But she and I manage to keep in touch anyway through cards, text messages and occasional phone calls – although it’s hard to pin her down to a focused conversation or reply. It’s why Monkey fits. She is jumping in and out of a jungle full of trees at any given moment.
“I was diagnosed with ADD several years ago,” she mentioned a while back. “But at my age what’s the point in doing anything about it?”
Even though it matches her personality, the nickname didn’t actually come by her that way. When she was about 15 or 16 I gave her a giant stuffed gorilla as a present. Life was hard at home. Her parents didn’t get along, and for the most part didn’t like me. We also had our moments where things didn’t go well, times when the relationship would falter and then ultimately reignite. But through it all she kept the gorilla, admitting to me recently that it held a very special place in her heart. Even now.
That gorilla is why I get to be the only one to call her Monkey.
When I was talking with her today, I wondered about the power of relationships, and the importance of connecting with people on a level which far exceeds what we do on social media. I have been sending hand-written – and in some cases hand-drawn – postcards to friends and family this year. My writing hand hurts. I love it because it hurts for the ones I adore. The response to these cards has been surprising and positive. I consider each one to be a tangible, tactile, meaningful connection – with the ability to bring humanity back to being human. Even Monkey got one. That’s why I called her, to see if it had arrived. It was when I discovered that she needed to talk, and once again we were 17 years old all over.
She was my girlfriend once; thankfully she is still my friend.
If I were to compare, I would say our relationship is like family now. We try to provide support for each other when our families have tough times. She and I experienced some very important things – formative things – together as teenagers. The way we connect now is the way we connected then – only this time we are more seasoned. The inside jokes and jabs still exist. I have a better understanding of how she thinks. She adores the stunning Mrs. Clark. I love her husband’s sense of humor and the respect and love he shows for his wife. Our families enjoy each others’ company. We are friends, ones who built something over the years – unique in its development and special in its existence. And to top it off – after all this time – I have a wonderful gift – one that embodies all the good things about having and being a friend.
I get to call her Monkey.