Last Message for an Old Friend

As I write this post, I’m sitting in front of our open patio doors again. This is my favorite moveable office spot in the summer. On this particular morning, it’s rainy and cool. There’s a breeze. The sound of the rain woke us this morning, along with an early morning text message on my partner Mick’s phone. 

Most days, I am baffled as to why people feel the need to send texts before 8 a.m unless it’s important, as in my car died and I need a ride to work or I’m in the emergency room or I can’t meet you for breakfast as planned. I love my quiet time, moments to stretch, to ease into the awake world. I love sipping my coffee in silence, listening to the birds, making breakfast, not talking much. Fifteen minutes for meditation, fifteen more for some gentle yoga poses, a few minutes staring at the garden to see what is in bloom. It’s taken me years to understand that I just don’t like much interaction too early in the day, even though I’m a morning person.

That’s why I have long blocked off mornings for creative work whenever possible. And by morning, I mean all the way until 11 a.m. or noon. Many of my friends know this about me and honor it. My friend Zola, however, often forgot. She would text at the oddest times, especially on days when I posted here at One Minnesota Crone. She would send me a message as soon as she read the post, often around 7 a.m. this past year. It never failed to annoy me when she woke me up or texted during meditation or when I had my hands full of paint. I would repeatedly tell myself not to be annoyed because Zola was just excited. She told me that about herself – she would get excited about something and couldn’t wait. I learned to silence my notifications for longer periods of time, just to have some boundaries and prevent myself from getting annoyed for no good reason. How could I be annoyed at a friend who wanted to share something no matter what time it was?

Zola was a friend for over 25 years. She was one of my biggest champions when it came to my writing. We were both graduate students at Hamline University in St. Paul in the late 90s. We were both members of the International Association of Business Communicators back when we both worked in offices. We both loved travel, although Zola hadn’t traveled much these past several years for health reasons. For years, we would meet somewhere, catch up over a two-hour lunch. She would send me her haiku, her photos of flowers, links to other writers, tell me when her music requests were going to play on MPR’s classical music station even though I seldom listened. She would always tell me when the next lunar eclipse or meteor shower was coming up, shoot me a text about the death of a famous artist or writer, ask me if I’d ever heard of the latest new novelist. The pandemic changed our long lunches, of course; no longer meeting in person, we shifted to using Facetime. The first few times Zola used Facetime were quite entertaining, as my screen showed closeups of her nostrils or one eye while she talked. She always had a pile of things to show me, papers and pictures and books that she would hold up too close to the screen to see. But once she got the hang of Facetime, it was great.

Zola passed away this past week. 

No more early morning texts from Zola. No more dinnertime calls. No more Kathleen, it’s Zola. Your blog this morning was fantastic. No more emails that tell me the same thing I just received in a text. No more Facetime with my friend who almost always got choked up when she talked to me about how much our friendship meant to her.

No more excitable Zola. 

How lucky was I that someone in my life pushed the boundaries and let her exuberance fly? That is what I’ll take forward. Let your exuberance fly. Who cares what time it is?

Published by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who has published work in journals in the US, UK, and Canada.

20 thoughts on “Last Message for an Old Friend

  1. This touched me so much and not just because I identify with Zola and her inability to control her passion, but because you articulate that wonderful moment when we realize that it’s not necessry to put everyone in a box but, rather, so important to appreciate who they really are. Thank you for this morning inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am Lynda one of Zola’s sisters who lives in Texas. I feel like I know you from the many stories Zola shared over the years especially regarding your mentorship of her interest in poetry’s many forms. You perfectly captured her exuberance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry for the loss you must feel by losing such an amazing friend. And for what it’s worth, you do let your exuberance fly and it is beautiful!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathleen, what a poignantly beautiful piece honoring your friend Zola. It’s clear you valued your friendship with her, even if certainly aspects of that friendship sometimes annoyed you. Many hugs to you as you remember Zola and all she meant to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry about your loss of your friend Zola. You’ve written a beautiful piece about her. Zola would be excited to text you and tell you how much it meant to her.

    Liked by 1 person

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