My best friend Laarni is home for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of her parents. For the first time in probably two decades, the Merto family will be together again. That is, of course, minus Rebecca or Baby, the third child, who succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver in ’05. No doubt though she will be present in spirit. As for me, I am humbled to be invited to this golden celebration.
Laarni had been my buddy during the craggy teen-age years. We were members of the junior Legion of Mary. On Saturday mornings, Laarni and I would jog the village round. Later on Laarni lured me into swimming, bowling, and traveling. Mentally mathematical, Laarni pursued Accounting and that brought her to various assignments all over the Philippines. Whenever I can join her I would and that exposed me to the many fiestas – from the Kiping Festival of Quezon to the Sinulog of Cebu. Without Laarni’s prodding I wouldn’t have been interested in photography. In many ways Laarni made me open my eyes and view the world.
I really am not the sentimental sort and really never believed in having a best friend. In fact I wondered if there could really be such a friendship. But Laarni called me her best friend, even if my personality was difficult to deal with. I criticized the cutting of roses for bouquets, so she gave me a rose pot to take care. I used to like dogs, so she gave me a puppy. In other words, Laarni built the friendship which I never even realized then as something important. Probably she sensed that I am not very intelligent nor analytical, so she predisposed to be forgiving. So I called her my best friend. Actually she was the only one who stood by me. I must have hurt her a thousand times with my sweeping statements but she never retaliated nor did she reprimand me. She would just so kindly explain in a few words why things had come to be. Anger? That becomes me. With Laarni, that does not exist.
Laarni left for the USA in the early 90’s. She didn’t write me to tell about her adventures but she would softly relate touching and trying moments that happened to her whenever she’s home for a vacation. There were the few times when I wanted to cry. But I always waited for her cue… and she held on, brave and ever understanding that life is never fair, but we must live it nonetheless. And every Christmas, she would send heartwarming gifts for me and my two girls. That is her way of saying Hey! Remember me? But of course generosity is inherent in her being. Laarni had always been a giver. Me, selfishly, had always been the receiver.
Laarni explained one time that her mom wanted double letters on the names of her children…Laarni, Charisse, Rebecca, Dennis, and Jenny. But I told her that her name came from an invention of Loreto Paras-Sulit. She wrote a short story about a girl and entitled her prose Laarni, a Dream.
God allows us to meet many people, establish acquaintances and filter further for friendships. Along my life’s journey I have written my own list of extraordinary people whom I am so proud to say are my friends… but the one person who taught me how to be a friend is definitely Laarni. She may be a dream but for me she is as real as a best friend could be.