A Soul’s Connection: A Special Friendship

Jack and Donatta in 8th Grade - 1977.

Jack and Donatta in 8th Grade – 1977.

“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”  ~Lois Wyse

It was the seventh grade. It was a brand new school. It was a time that would change my life forever.

I went to a grade school called, Stockton, on Montrose and Beacon in Chicago; the same school where my teacher would let me out early to run home so that I wouldn’t get my ass kicked after school.  I was happy that I wouldn’t be going to that school any longer. I made not one friend there. At the time, Stockton School only went up to grade six, therefore, I was being transferred to a brand new school, Joan F. Arai Middle School, which was down on Wilson Avenue and Hazel Street. Here is where I met my best friend, my kindred spirit, my soul’s infinite connection, Donatta Erzic.

We both had an immediate connection with one another, sitting together in class, laughing, joking, creating a friendship. I remember when Donatta would go into one of her laughing spurts, she would laugh so hard that she would fall off her chair, sliding herself down the wall and onto the floor, while her legs continued to rest on her chair. Giggling with her, I would try and help her up off the floor, as the teacher, Ms. Gold, would instruct us to get back into our seats.

The hot show at the time was a cop show, Starsky and Hutch.  Donatta and I would pretend to be these television characters, passing notes in class and solving crimes, with her being Starsky and me being Hutch. Donatta would wear the big sweaters like Starsky use to wear, too. What a great time we used to have in class.

Starsky & Hutch

Starsky & Hutch

Our seventh grade school year was soon to be over and summer vacation was on its way.  Every summer, my brother and I would go to Wisconsin to stay the summer with my grandparents on their farm and I knew that I was going to miss my new found friend.  Before the school year ended, Donatta wrote me a sweet note, letting me know how much fun she had, committing to a friendship between us.

Donatta's Letter

Donatta’s Letter

I wrote to Donatta every week and, as promised, she replied back. We had a ritual with our letters however. Because my granny was nosy and wanted to know what I wrote about, I wrote one general very vague letter, which was the one that granny always read. But, on the side, I wrote my “real” letter, sharing with Donatta more personal writings and things I wanted to share with Donatta only, not my grandmother. Walking to the end of the driveway to mail my letter to Donatta, I would quickly place my secret letter inside the envelope so that granny wouldn’t see. Sealing and tucking my letter inside, I closed the lid to the mailbox.  Raising the red flag, signifying that there’s a letter to be picked up, I waited for the mailman to take my letter that was soon to be on a journey to Chicago. Days would pass, as I watched for the mailman.  I couldn’t wait to get a return letter from Donatta.

Day after day, I would wait for the mailman to bring the mail.  Once he drove off, I would grab the mail, looking to see if I received a letter and, soon enough, there within the other envelopes, was a letter for me! Upon receiving my mail from Donatta, I would immediately open the envelope, sneaking one of the letters into my pocket.  I shared with Donatta that my granny read all our letters back and forth to each other, so I asked her to write two… one for granny’s eyes and another for me.  We continued this correspondence throughout the summer until we could see each other again when school started.

Eighth grade had arrived, where Donatta and I shared, once again, the same classes and homeroom, where we became closer as friends and sharing secrets, as young girls would often do. This was the year that I met her family and she met mine, accepting where and the way I lived, the way I was being raised, accepting the horrors that I lived every single day of my life.  I was able to share anything with Donatta.  She was a person that I knew I could trust and she was the only one in my life who knew my deepest and darkest secret… that I was being sexually abused by the man who was labeled as my step father. I have always felt that Donatta was meant to come into my life for a reason, to be there with me, for me, to protect me. Her arrival couldn’t have been any more precise.

“Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.”  ~Author Unknown

 Donatta was true to her words, “Once I meet a friend I like staying pals for a long time.” The year was 1976 and, 38 years later, we are still friends, best friends and even more.

Donatta wasn’t only my friend, she was my teacher. She taught me many things that my own mother could not.  She took me to the next steps of feminine hygiene, where she showed me how to use a tampon. “Girls don’t wear pads anymore, they wear tampons,” she said.  Buying my first box, she demonstrated with a tampon and her fingers, showing me how to insert and use them.  Later that evening, Donatta gave me a call, asking how I was coming along wearing tampons, making sure that I had no questions and that everything was working out okay.  Proudly, I told her that it was going great and how much easier it was to use tampons… except for one thing.  “What’s that, she asked?”  I shared with her that it’s nice using tampons, but I have gone through a whole box already and that I’m almost out. “How can that be?” There’s like 24 of them in the box?” Donatta said.  I told her that I pee a lot and that whenever I went to the bathroom, I’d pull the tampon out so I could pee. “Oh my God! You don’t have to pull the tampon out every time you go to the bathroom. Don’t you know you have two holes down there?!” Embarrassed, I told her no, I didn’t know that and every time I went to the bathroom, I’m pull it out. I thought the tampon was like a plug… how can the pee come out if I’m all plugged up? Once again, Donatta was my teacher. This has been our little joke between us for the past 38 years.

I remember the time when Donatta said she would take me to go and see my grandmother.  My grandfather had recently passed away and Donatta was gracious enough to drive up to Madison, Wisconsin so that I can spend the weekend with granny.  It was also the day that Donatta found out she was going to have a baby, her first. Here we are both sitting in the car, driving the highway, while my best friend had morning sickness – a severe case of morning sickness.  Between dry heaves and several cans of Sprite, we finally made it to granny’s place. There, Donatta sat recovering from her three hour ordeal in the car. We decided to get comfortable for the evening and snapped a few pictures while granny sat watching her television shows.

Granny had bunny knick knacks and behind her back, we tied a lace around the bunnies neck.  This was Donatta’s way of telling the world that the “rabbit had died!”

The Rabbit Died!

The Rabbit Died!

The next morning, I decided to make breakfast for us all.  While Donatta was in the bathroom, dealing with her morning sickness no doubt, I started cooking.  The moment that Donatta walked out of the bathroom, she said, “You made bacon?!” Surely, it was the last thing she wanted to smell as she tried to settle her queasy pregnant belly, but always a memory for me whenever I cook bacon today.  She did all of this for me so that I could be with my grandmother.

Donatta and I had decided to take another trip to granny’s after Emily was born. Emily was just a couple months old at the time.  Granny was excited to meet baby Emily and we thought granny would get a kick out of meeting the little one who was inside Donatta’s belly, making her nauseous just several months before.

Donatta knew how eccentric my grandmother was and that she was in a world all her own at times.  I’m not sure if granny didn’t think about her actions or she just didn’t care what others thought. Such as, whenever granny would go to the bathroom at home, she would always pee with the bathroom door open, holding a conversation with you every tinkle of the way; something that I even catch myself doing to this day.  I don’t know why she never closed the door for privacy.  Perhaps, it’s the same reason why I leave the door open myself; comfortableness with the person you’re with.

As we settled in for the evening, Donatta prepared Emily for bedtime, hushing and lying her down in the portable crib that we brought with us. As if on cue, granny strolls to the bathroom to do her business, while leaving the door open the whole time.  Granny lived in a small apartment that consisted of only a living room, bedroom and a small kitchenette.  The bathroom was in direct contact with all three of these rooms, so no matter what room you were in, you were able to see and hold a conversation on with granny while she sat on the “pot” as she called it.  Sitting in the living room with a direct eyeshot of granny in the bathroom, Donatta listened to every squirt, plop, and splashdown that granny was creating, as well as every sound effect that granny chimed.  It was at this precise moment that Donatta spun her head around and looked at me, whispering underneath her breath, “Your grandmother is taking a major shit with the bathroom door open!” Giggling to myself, I shared with Donatta that granny must have felt very comfortable with her if she didn’t close the bathroom door, making it sound as if it was some sort of honor or privilege!  Once granny was done with her chat on the pot, she strolled back into the living room, into her chair, where she restfully took a nap.  I immediately went to the bathroom and tried to mask the smell, looking for the bathroom deodorizer.  Unfortunately for us, there wasn’t any.  The only thing I could find to spray down the bathroom with was granny’s FDS spray, which stood for Feminine Deodorant Spray. Now, we were sitting in a room that smelled like someone who took a crap in a baby power factory! To say the least, between granny’s dumps and chronic cough throughout the night that kept waking up baby Emily, it was an unforgettable visit!  Memories in the making.

Jack and Donatta Young

A couple years later, I went with Donatta and her parents to Cancun, Mexico, along with that precious little baby girl Emily.  To sit on the darkened beach by moonlight, drinking Tequila Spritzer shots with my best friend, who was constantly asking for “another” was a memorable vacation of a lifetime! We shared bread, we drank and we talked about our past, our present and our future.

Emily in Cancun

Emily in Cancun

Jack and Donatta in Cancun

Jack and Donatta in Cancun

Beachin' It!

Beachin’ It!

Donatta has not only been my best friend and angel, but she has been my nurturer. When being in the hospital from my motorcycle accident and unable to walk, she made sure that I was comfortable and content. While visiting me in the hospital, Donatta shaved my legs, which always makes a woman feel her best. She also made sure that my body was clean, helping me wash myself, when I hardly could not. In my eyes, this is a definition of love.

 “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”  ~John Leonard

Throughout the years, Donatta and I have shared many celebrations and experiences together, birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, births of our children and, sadly enough, many deaths. Donatta has always been there for me through the good times, as well as the bad, as I have her. She laughs, I laugh and when she cries, I cry. We have always had this underlying connection between us, that without trust and respect, a friendship would not be there. My wish for all is to experience a friendship like I have with Donatta.

There are times when I think of Donatta and I can’t help but to cry, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and blessings. I think of Donatta through hearing a song, through a movie, and even through special thoughts. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life, someone who accepts me for who I am, even though I can be a little eccentric myself at times, with tattoos, piercings or even with my candid openness.  I love her to death because she accepts me for who I am.

“A true friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked.” ~Author Unknown

Donatta and I may not share the same opinions or agree on a certain subject matter, but we love and respect each other enough to accept each other’s beliefs, without shedding insult or disapproval.  Donatta is an honest, faithful and devoted friend and this is why she has been a part of my life for almost forty years.  We have experienced and shared a life time together and I am honored to be a part of her life.

“The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had.”  ~Author Unknown

Jack and Donatta

When we met back in grade school in 1976, we always said we wanted to have our own commune together, living off the land, while our babies ran around naked. What a dream that would have been, huh? Although a vision of the past, it doesn’t stop me from dreaming about the future, where we would live side by side on the same block, sharing food from our gardens in which we had planted just the spring before.  As for having our babies run around naked… well, they have gotten too big for that now, however, it is my hope and sincere dream that we are able to sit in the yard as the sun sets low, sharing a bottle of wine together, while we watch not our children, but our beautiful grandchildren run around naked instead…

I love you my dear friend. Although, I am fourteen days older than you, I will always look up to you.  I wish you a wonderful birthday and look forward to the many more we share together.

Always,

Jack

 “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  ~Henri Nouwen

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