“Even if things don’t work out between you and my son, we will always be friends.” At 20-years-old, this sounded really bizarre coming from this eccentric Danish/Georgian/Floridian artist. I met Anni at the Shrimp Festival in Fernandina, Florida. I had been dating her son for awhile, and he and I had traveled down to Florida for the Shrimp Festival and for introductions to his Danish family. This was the beginning of my forever friendship with Anni.
Anni has been true to her friendship; even now 26 years later she and I are friends. She put up with me even when I left her son two months before the wedding. I even worked for her a time or two helping her sell her art while making a bit of money.
In my mid 20s when I told Anni I was going back to school to become a teacher, she was thrilled for me. Floundering as a bartender/waitress with a psych degree, she knew the world had better plans for me, and she wanted to help me make them happen. She paid my tuition. She said, “Maya, you will be a great teacher, and I want to help you.” With that she got out her checkbook and said, “I am not asking for you to pay me back. I want to help you out. The only string is that if one day, you can help someone out like this, do that.” She saw who I could become, and she put her money on me. I just saw myself as a bartender with a degree in psychology.
She watched me go through relationships, and she was thrilled when I found Mike. Even now, she says Mike is an angel on earth, and she’s right–he is pretty amazing. She welcomed my children with little red wagons filled with goodies. “Every child needs a Red Rider,” she would say.
She really is part of my family, too. She is a Dane, and I am half Icelandic and a quarter Danish—we are Nordically connected you could say—perhaps all having horns and a conquering spirit. She helped my family when my dad was dying. When I could not imagine another trip to Emory’s Cancer Center for Dad’s radiation, she jumped in and took several trips with Dad and helped him enjoy life a little in those last days as they went on side trips to restaurants he liked. She supported my mom as a widow and encouraged my mom with her own art.
Yesterday I said goodbye to Anni, my forever friend. Her kidneys have failed and with dialysis as her only option, she is not interested in spending half of her days hooked up to a machine as she watches her body deteriorate, so she is refusing dialysis and has entered into hospice care.
She is like a second mom, a cheerleader, a confidant, a friend, and a person who has always been there when I need her. She listened as I told her about my recent opportunities at school and with KMWP. With her hand holding mine telling me that she knew she put her money on the right horse.
And so, now, I don’t want to say goodbye to Anni. I guess I don’t have to either. She may leave this earth soon, but her spirit will always be a part of me because she has helped me become the person I am today and helps me continue to seek the person I can become. I want her to always know that she put her money on the right horse.
Anni is still, and will always be, my forever friend.