Beth was the proud president of the Asshole Driver’s Club, but it wasn’t because she was an asshole, she really wasn’t. She just didn’t pay attention as well as some when behind the wheel. She paid attention to everything else; you, the conversation, the music, the journey, the destination. She was the one who turned at the last second, sans signal. Crossed three lanes of traffic to exit. Swerved from one lane into the other while fully turning around to laugh with someone in the back seat. Driving with Beth was a harrowing, sometimes terrifying experience.
In high school, Beth drove her step-dad Bob’s old light blue Camaro. I had known that car from my youth. When we were kids, Bob and Kate in the front seat and Beth and I in the back, some teenager in a Jeep tagged us hard from behind at a red light. The kid came up to the driver’s side window to tell Mr. Cieslak that he had hit him. Bob responded the only way one could in such a situation. He said, “no shit.”
By the time the Camaro was passed down to Beth, it had been given the title of Bitchin’ Camaro (thank you, Dead Milkmen) and had seen better days. Still, we would park it across two spaces in the high school lot out of respect for its history and because we thought it was hilarious. Once, when I was (not supposed to be) driving it, Beth was in the passenger seat with her feet up, flat against the windshield. I took a left into the 7/11 and pop!, the windshield cracked from side to side. Then there is the epic story of Beth somehow hooking her front fender over someone’s back fender in a movie theater parking lot. It took about 5 of the high school jocks to lift the entire front end of the Camaro to free it. I don’t remember the details, but I would bet anything Beth left a note, because she truly wasn’t an asshole.
She was a sweet heart. She was hilarious, and brilliant and loving and my best friend since 1977. Beth passed away earlier this year and I still can’t wrap my head around it. I’ve been down to work on Mavis twice since she died but writing about that before acknowledging her death didn’t feel right. She and my girls, Michele, Lisa and Darice, were the first I told about my Mavis mission and they were yelling ‘yes’ even before I finished explaining the idea. Beth would write or call me after each blog post, telling me how hard she laughed, or cried, always telling me how proud she was that I was tackling this crazy feat. The last time I heard her voice was on the phone while she sat in her basement digging up old pictures of us for my last post, Titties, Trauma and Transmission. Another of the long list of memories we created over our 40-year friendship.
Driving to work at the end of this past January I was overcome with a feeling of dread deep in my heart. The tears came so fast, blurring the road and forcing me to turn back home. I made it into the house and weak kneed, supporting myself against the kitchen counter, I sobbed. I said out loud to no one, “something’s not right.” And it wasn’t. Beth would die that night.
So, I’ve been struggling and don’t know if, or when, that will ever end. But I do know that Beth would want me to continue this journey. Bringing Mavis back to life, accomplishing something new, sharing time with people I love. We’ve always been a bit cosmically connected. She’ll know, she’ll watch as I reach my goal. Then I’ll take a long ride, play ABBA real loud and try not to drive like an asshole. Love you Bether.