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PrimeTime: Goodbye, Elaine

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I said my final goodbye to my lifelong friend Elaine last week.

We grew up on a farm in Tintah, Minn., and went through high school together. I moved to Minneapolis after graduation. Elaine married and remained in the area. We drifted apart for a few years raising our children.

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Tintah had its centennial in 1988, and we renewed our friendship. When I moved to Bemidji and got a divorce, I started to visit Elaine at her home on Lake Clitheral, Minn. After her husband died, we picked up the pace.

I always spent at least one night with her when I went to Tintah two or three times a year. I was always welcome; a couple of times her lake home was full of kids and grandkids sleeping on the couches and the floor. We went to a few reunions and parties together and visited old friends in from school. We often laughed about the amount of time we spent talking with each other. I got to her house, brought my bag in the front door and sat in the rocker just inside, until it was time for a bathroom break or time to eat.

I received calls from her saying, "Muriel, your dad and my dad would roll over in their graves if," and she would tell me some incident that had just occurred. One stands out.

Farmers were selling rocks to people for landscaping. This turned into a lengthy discussion about rock piles and rock picking every spring when we were kids. Another unheard of situation was the Congregational church having a wedding in the Catholic Church. Somehow we always turned these issues into fun talks. We didn't argue or gossip. I could count on hearing from Elaine on deaths or marriages from home.

Last June, we attended an all-school reunion together. We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning rehashing our recollections of the people we saw. One of the men entertained us with his memories of his first day of high school 60 years ago and his first impression of the hot girls of the time.

Elaine had two or three topics about me she liked to discuss. Her favorite was the group pictures that were taken in elementary school. The front row of girls sat with their feet crossed right over left, and I always did the opposite. She swore I did it on purpose. She said she saw the smirk as I switched my feet at the last minute. Then she would drag the pictures out as proof. She took the picture to the reunion. We never resolved the issue, but it gave her great pleasure to talk about it. She always accepted me just as I was. She told me things I never knew about her or forgot.

A year ago she gave me a friendship coffee cup she got from her church to pass on. I have used it every day since. I think of her each time I use it and wonder if I should save it, but I think better of that. It keeps her close.

I always had another question for her for our next visit. We talked about so much, but so much was left unsaid, so many things I wish I had said. She called me just to chat about two weeks before she died, and we had a good chat. Little did I know it would be our last chat.

Life won't be the same without her, but I'm so fortunate to have had a pal like her with so many happy memories.

I'm going to Minneapolis this weekend to visit a longtime friend. It's been a year since our last visit.

Good friends don't come along every day.

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