“Just Internet Friends”

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I don’t know when Catie and I became friends, but it had to be back in the early 2000’s. And I don’t remember HOW we became friends, but somehow I found my way to her blog and then just stayed. I loved her voice and sense of humor. If you’re funny, I’ll probably love you.

In early 2007, I went through a surgery that knocked me down for weeks—a planned hysterectomy that also included a surprise bowel resection. Recovery was tough and included a second surgery to reverse the colostomy that I lived with for about four months while my colon healed. All this to say that, come fall, I was itching for a vacation to celebrate my recovery. Hey, I said, let’s go to California and see Catie! When I floated the idea, Catie gave me a thumbs up and was a big help in planning our trip, passing along recommendations for a place to stay, sights to see, and restaurants to try. I didn’t want to be a pest, but I sure as heck wanted to say hi to her while we were in the neighborhood, even though we were just internet friends.

Catie was excited to meet in person, too, and invited us over for dinner on a day that just so happened to be our 14th wedding anniversary. My sister thought that this was all very weird, flying across the country then having dinner with someone I’d met on the internet. She was worried that we’d be murdered, but clearly that didn’t happen as I’m sitting here writing this. What DID happen is that Fred and I shared a wonderful evening with Catie and Andy, and finally met Seamus the wonder cat. What a great night! Catie and Andy and Seamus were exactly like I knew they’d be—gracious and fun hosts who treated us to a delicious home-cooked roast chicken dinner in their charming San Jose home.

Throughout the trip, Catie would email me with suggestions of things we shouldn’t miss (which I clumsily retrieved via my clamshell iBook and dial up internet). We went on to visit the Winchester Mystery House, the Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, Stanford University, and several local missions that Catie had recommended.

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What a great trip, not only because we we’d spent the week in California (those sequoias!!) but also because I’d finally met Catie “in real life.” Catie’s blog slowly petered out in favor of Facebook and Instagram. She uses both of those social media platforms very much like a blog. I love her “Three Things” posts, where she details, in her very Catie way, three, usually unrelated, things. Like this:

1. Yesterday was my darling dog’s 10th birthday. He is the love of my life. When we got a dog, I knew I would love the dog, I just had no idea that I would love the dog this much. Every single night he jumps up on the bed and impatiently waits for me to get in bed. Then he slams his body into mine and growls at me because I didn’t leave enough room for his giant head on my pillow. I yell, “I AM ALLOWED TO USE MY PILLOW” he grumbles some more and then we fall asleep. It is super annoying and I really hate it in the summer, but I don’t ever turn him away because I know when he dies I’ll be crying about how much I miss his aggressive snuggling.

2. October 16th was our TWENTY-FIFTH wedding anniversary. We stood in a tiny catholic church in Mendocino, California and made a bunch of big promises to each other. The priest who officiated our wedding started the ceremony out by recounting all the marriages he had officiated that ended in divorce. I kept thinking he would somehow turn it around, but no, he just listed them out and then kept going. I was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment that I cried when I said my vows. I don’t mean just some sweet tears rolling down my young, supple skin. I mean CRYING. The priest even put his hand my shoulder at one point to steady me. Hahaha. You guys, I was EMOTIONAL in the olden days.
Anyway, we got married and then we went on to live our married life and we’ve never once killed each other or gotten divorced. Here’s what I think the secret to long content marriage is- let everything go as quickly as you can and accept that other person for who they are in the exact moment you marry them. (I’m not suggesting I did either of these things, I’m just saying these are good ideas.) No joking, I really like being married to Andy because he’s a really good man, he still thinks I’m funny and he’s 100% worth it. Also, he learned how to sharpen knives and our kitchen knives could skin a bear and then slice a tomato into paper thin slices and you cannot put a price on that.

3. Here are some things about us as a couple- We love a road trip. We are both messy, but we think the other one is messier. We have become great cooks, but in entirely different ways. We are horrible at doing most projects together. We are really good at making the other one laugh at themselves. We can make big decisions quickly and without regret. We are both super opinionated, picky, and have control issues, but oddly (and conveniently) not about the same things. Our super power is making deals with each other and keeping them. For instance, if we decide that we have to let something go and never speak of it again, we let it go and never speak of it again.

Tuesday night, while setting up a new iPad, I loaded the Instagram app and coincidentally stumbled upon the news that Catie—dear Catie—had suddenly passed away on January 21st. To say I was stunned would be an epic understatement. She was wise, authentic, kind-hearted, and FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY. She was only 50, and we’d only met that one time, but she was my friend and this is all impossible.

I’ve been walking around the past few days wanting to hug everyone. Suddenly it feels like nothing matters while at the same time everything matters.

We have these friends. Some we meet. Some we don’t. We love them in the many many ways that love exists. I loved Catie and now she’s gone and the world seems so quiet without her. Thank God for Facebook and Instagram where I can see her beautifully composed salads, her outfit for the day, her freshly manicured nails. I can hear her joking with Murray the dog and Seamus the cat on their daily walks. (Yes, the cat went, too…always trailing a little bit behind.)

In her last Instagram post, she showed off “before” and “after” photos of her pantry—a shambles before and tidy afterwards. The other night I purged and organized my own ransacked-looking pantry in memory of Catie. I’m sure she’s laughing about that.

I’m lucky to have a lot of internet friends—some, like Catie, I’ve met, and others I haven’t. But whether we’ve met or not, we share our stories through Facebook and Instagram, through blog posts and photos. We’re “just internet friends” but we share laughs and encouragement, virtual hugs and memories. We’re “just internet friends” but we share the details of our lives—all of those funny, stupid, frustrating, wonderful, and magical moments.

We’re just internet friends, but I love you.

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