It’s great to have old friends if only for the shorthand that being acquainted for so long brings.
Case in point: my friend, Dr. Pantz. How she acquired that nickname is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that she is a doctor of theology and her surname is not “Pantz,” even though that’s what our entire family calls her. Pantz and I went to high school together where our maiden names both started with “S-C” and meant that we sat in the same formation for all the years we spent together, me one desk in front of her. Pantz once said that she did the academic side of school very well while I did the social side of school very well. In reality, we both managed to do a combination of both, but reflecting back on our high school selves, that’s a pretty apt description. She encouraged me to take up running, something I never excelled at, and I encouraged her to…well, I’m not sure what I encouraged her to do except blow the pop stand that was our high school in her junior year for early admission at one of the Seven Sisters schools where she continued to excel academically.
Pantz has studied abroad and made quite a name for herself in both theological and medical circles due to her research on medical ethics and specifically, harm to patients. We lost touch after high school until I discovered, by chance, that she was living right around the corner from me, here in our small Village.
We try to get together from time to time, but this year, haven’t been entirely successful. We haven’t seen each other since her annual New Year’s Day party and there she was today, sashaying into the local grocery store at exactly the same time I was. She informed me that she had run a half-marathon yesterday, and I resisted the urge to ask her exactly how many miles that was. It took me a few minutes to remember that it was thirteen miles, not the same distance as a 5K, but the thing with Pantz is that because she’s known me for so long, she knows that although I can’t divide twenty-six by two, I have other find qualities that have allowed us to be friends for over thirty years, with a little break in the middle for things like getting married, having kids, and establishing careers.
I approached the asparagus, which seemed obscenely cheap and asked her if the price could actually be $1.99. The man behind her smirked at me as I realized that it was $1.99 a pound, not a bunch. But Pantz didn’t blink because just like over thirty years ago when she was coaxing me through geometry, she knew that I would never be able to calculate the price of asparagus. I turned to the man and told him that yes, we went to high school together, and no, it didn’t matter to her that I can’t calculate the price of vegetables in my head. Calculating for me has been an integral part of our relationship and to her, it’s second nature.
Pantz is the person who told me, when I had received a Stage IV cancer diagnosis that the “longer you live with cancer, the longer you live.” She is also the same person who made sure that a very special chaplain at Memorial Sloane-Kettering said a prayer with me just hours before I underwent surgery. She is also the person who tirelessly researched every drug I was on and every trial I was to enter, letting me know how successful they had been and never telling me if they had proven unsuccessful in any way. She listened to every fear that I had and countered it with scientific fact. She never placated, but she always made sure the facts were on hand and translated them into information that I could understand. She is both a scientist and a woman of faith.
She is the one who told me when I developed lymphedema in my leg, post-surgery, that that was a battle scar and an indication that I had won the battle and the war.
So to say that every time I see Pantz I get a lift is an understatement. She is someone that I run into far too infrequently, but the shorthand is there. I will always remember how she could have run faster in the three-mile race that we did together as sixteen-year-olds, but she hung back so that I wouldn’t finish alone. To me, that is the perfect metaphor for a good and lasting friendship.