Anyone who has read the book, The Three Musketeers, or has seen the movies, recognizes the phrase that is the title to this post. I have had this post in my mind for weeks, but due to other circumstances (hospitalization and recuperation), am just getting around to writing it, finally. If you remember the story, it starts with three musketeers who have each other’s backs, but ends with a fourth. That is how I feel about my dearest friends Deb and Judy (we three are the three musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Porthos – don’t be impressed; I know the names because I Googled them), and Jackie (who is the fourth musketeer, D’Artagnan – for some reason I remembered his name without using Google).
Deb, Judy and I met in our second year of law school. We each had transferred to the University of Michigan Law School from Wayne State University Law School. I had originally been accepted to U of M, but chose to go closer to home until the professor for whom I worked the summer after my first year urged me to go to U of M, which was nationally known and would open more doors for me. I was slated to be on law review at Wayne State, along with Deb and Judy, but none of us ended up working on law review because we transferred. In a twist of fate, had I stayed at Wayne State I would have met Alan. He was on law review. He was not in any of my first year classes because he was in a different section than me. Thus, I did not know him from first year, and because of my transfer I did not meet him until my first year working at Dykema. In hindsight, I am glad it worked out that way. Who knows what would have happened had we known each other in law school when I was still with my first husband and was very unhappily married. When Alan and I met, we were done with school, I finally had the money to divorce my first husband, Alan and I were working at our law firm, and able to have our friendship and then romance.
Deb and Judy and I were inseparable in law school. We took most of the same classes. We quickly became each other’s confidantes and shared everything going on in our lives. Deb and Judy were by my side as I went through a separation from my first husband. I remember walking in Ann Arbor with them when they asked how it was going. I burst into tears because he had shown up at my house and refused to leave, which caused me to have to leave and find a place to stay. He did not want to separate or divorce. It was my choice, and he tried every which way to force me back into a relationship. I even agreed, out of guilt, to go to marriage counseling with him, which only solidified for me that the marriage was a mistake, and which I used as a forum to brutally tell him that there was no way I could stay married to him. I had known from the start the marriage was a mistake and told Deb and Judy how I had finally said it out loud six months after getting married to my college roommate and close friend, Dianne, and then tamped it down out of guilt. They were there for me. In fact, there were times I spent the night with Judy, especially in our third year once she moved to Ann Arbor. I also remember the day I ended up with a root canal after three days and nights of agonizing pain in a tooth. Judy found the dentist for me, and I finally had relief. That day, when I told her that after taking Percodan that I felt like my head was floating off my body, she said you are not driving home, you are staying with Al (her husband) and I tonight. Judy introduced Deb to her first husband, and while the marriage did not last, for a time Alan and I used to regularly go out with them and we all attended her wedding the September after we graduated from law school. Judy and I also lived through Deb’s romance and wonderful marriage to Norm, her second husband. We are so glad they are together. He is the right person for her. Deb and I also went through Judy’s first pregnancy with her – I remember she decided she wanted to start her family sooner rather than later. She got pregnant during our last year of law school. As we were all taking the bar exam that July, Judy was having Braxton-Hicks contractions, making Deb and I very nervous she may give birth. Luckily, she lasted until September near her due date. I also remember her telling Deb and I her firstborn’s name was Greg, and we told the firm. Then she changed her mind, twice, until the name Tony finally stuck. After that, we decided not to announce the names of her later children until we knew she had them finalized. We went through so many life events together: divorces (mine and Deb’s), Deb’s sister’s closed head injury from an auto accident, the dementia of Judy’s mom, including seeing the beginning of it, the loss of parents (Deb lost hers when they were in their 60’s and Judy lost her dad young and her mom was lost to dementia years before she died), the loss of my parents, Deb’s breast cancer and our celebration in Chicago when she reached the five year survivor mark (and thank god, its been over 17 years now). We knew each other when our parents were all alive and shared those memories.
Judy, Deb and I all accepted jobs at Dykema right out of law school and we continued to be inseparable at Dykema. I spent my whole career there and they spent most of theirs. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to work with my best friends. I also remember when Alan and I started dating, Judy told me because he was Jewish he would never marry me and I should think about ending it before I got hurt. I told Alan, who, of course, was greatly upset. We laugh about it now – after 33 years of marriage. Judy loves Alan as does Deb, but Judy spoke from love of me, not because of dislike for him. She wanted to protect me. When Judy left the firm in 2003, it broke my heart. It was a horrid year – the year my son had to have serious surgery for pectus excavatum, and Judy was upset with Alan and I because the firm was doing her wrong, and our kitchen and downstairs were under construction starting that fall. I cried a lot in sirsasana after my yoga practice, about Judy, about my son, and about the frustration I was feeling. Deb, of course, ever the mediator and caregiver, worked the middle and kept me calm. When Deb left 4 years ago, it broke my heart yet again. I cried a lot. Alan reminded me he was still with the firm and with me. I told him I knew, but although he was my best friend, it was not the same as having my girlfriends there. I remember the week after Deb left, walking into her office (I had put her in the office next to mine) and just feeling so sad. I missed her every day. I have talked with Deb about my wishes should I die before her (the odds are clearly there for me). While she hates to hear it, I know I can count on her to follow through.
We all were very busy with our lives. We still saw each other but not as regularly as we had when we were all at the firm. Then, I got my cancer diagnosis. From that day, on a daily basis, they have reached out to me. They were there at my house the Friday I saw Dr. Death, and Deb arranged, through her contacts at Karmanos, to get me an appointment the next Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. at Karmanos. Deb, whom I once told Judy was the most selfless of the three of us, has never missed a chemo appointment (maybe one) and just puts my doctor’s appointments in her schedule. She is fiercely protective of me, and will challenge the nurses and doctors to make sure I get the answers and right treatment. Judy worries about me like a mother hen (she is a mother hen to five children) and almost cancelled her trip out west when I was hospitalized the last time. Judy cancelling her trip would have upset me. She, like my friend Jackie, has fed me and made me food, including when I was hospitalized in January/February this year. Judy likes nothing better than to have us to come to her house where she can feed us wonderful homemade middle eastern food and, of course, send me home with leftovers. When Deb’s Uncle Bus died recently, it killed Judy not to be there. We both arranged food at the funeral home and at Deb’s house, me from here and Judy from out west, to support Deb. We also have had a bad habit of shopping together since my diagnosis, and egg each other on. I have always loved to shop and now we do so in Birmingham, at Nordstrom Rack or other places. We even ended up with serious estate jewelry because of me. They want to see me as much as possible and they do not know how wonderful that has been for me. We have each other’s backs. We truly are the Three Musketeers.
Jackie is the fourth Musketeer, D’Artagnan, who joins the three later. Jackie I first met when Alan and I began dating. She was married to Joel, Alan’s good friend, whom he met freshman year at U of M. Joel, like Alan, was a Deadhead. Joel met Jackie at U of M and although he was originally from New York, he stayed in Michigan and married her. He is one of most talented architects and they both are very involved in the community. One of my earliest memories of Jackie was being at her house, she was wearing overalls, and her adorable daughter, Jennifer, was doing a happy dance. She was maybe 18 months old and so adorable. I did not yet have kids. As the years went on, I became closer and closer to Jackie. We went up north with our families and skied together. I remember going to Boyne Mountain when the actual temperature in the car read minus 20 degrees, yet our husbands kept going and we tried to ski. How stupid was that. We went to Whistler/Blackcomb together to ski when Alex was 11 and Sara was 13. Alan lost Alex the second day we were there. When Jackie and I returned for lunch after skiing together and he told me Alex had been missing for over an hour, I freaked out. Jackie told me I was much easier on him than she would have been. I kept visualizing Alex lying in a crevasse somewhere. Instead, he apparently rode the lifts without telling anyone he was lost (although all lift operators had been alerted) and found his way to the mid-mountain on her lunch and he found us. Joel and his son Jacob, skied Aspen with us – I think something at school kept their daughter Jennifer from being able to come, and Jackie stayed with her. We also travelled with Joel and Jackie, on one of our nicest trips to northern Italy three years ago. Jackie planned that trip for months. We went to Piedmont, Bellagio on Lake Como, Santa Margherita, Cinque a Terre and to Lucca. Jackie is an incredible trip planner. Every place we stayed was so beautiful and her itinerary was the best we had done in Italy. We were supposed to spend a week in Paris last June with Joel and Jackie, but chemo got in the way. This July, however, we are planning a trip to Napa with them. I cannot wait. I can say that the places chosen by Jackie look incredible, as usual.
Our kids are close. Not only have they skied together most of their lives, but they also came up north with us in the summers. I remember one summer when we spotted the only snake we have ever seen at our place up north. It was a small black snake and when it saw us, it made a shape like a cobra. Alan ran to get a shovel, presumably to kill it. I ran into the house to grab an Eyewitness book we had there about snakes to see if this snake was described in the book. It was. It was an Eastern Hognose snake and it is harmless. I read out loud to the group that when it feels threatened, the Eastern Hognose snake first mimics a cobra. When that doesn’t work, it plays dead. Just as I read that, the snake stopped acting like a cobra and flopped over like it was dead. It was hilarious. We still laugh about it. My son was disappointed that despite many more trips up north, we never saw that snake or any other snake again, but it makes for a great story – Alan holding the shovel and me holding the book. Obviously, we followed much different approaches to the problem.
Jackie and I have also had a regular ski widow’s weekend for the past four years as our guys do their annual ski trip. The first year, when Sara was living in L.A., she came to Santa Monica with me. We hiked, ate well, rode bikes and visited with Sara. Since then, we have gone to South Beach where we can count on good weather in early February, great food, great art and design and fun people watching. Jackie, of course, always has new suggestions of things to see.
Jackie came to just about every chemo, made me lots of food, gave me food that she said worked for her when she was nauseated from gastritis, and has had us over to her house for dinner too many times to count. She is a great cook, by the way. She checks up on me regularly and makes me feel cherished. We are lucky to have such good friends and I am so glad she and I became so close over the years. That closeness has only grown since my diagnosis. From Alan’s friendship with Joel, I gained a close friend.
The spirit of one for all, all for one rings true for these friends. I have many other friends as well, and I hope they do not feel slighted by this because all are precious to me. Judy, Deb and I have been and have remained a team since law school and that is a rare and beautiful thing. Jackie, Joel, Alan and I have been very close as couples and as friends, for almost as long, and our kids are also close and truly like each other. They are such warm and giving people. I count myself lucky to have these other musketeers behind me, supporting me, loving me, crying with me and over me, and worrying about me. It makes me feel cherished. It is one more reason I love my life. I toast all of you. No matter what, I know you are there for me.