Started for Valentines Day, she got it for Christmas....
It's almost three months that I've been in a near-constant state of distraction. Wondering, worrying and caring for my sick friend and her daughter. She is gone now and we spent yesterday celebrating her life. The sun is out today and I feel as though I can step into a new phase of my life.

My worrying "what did I do for El today?" may reflect my own fears. Was I banking my time in a hope that my friends will stand up for me should the same happen to me? After all, cancer's horrors have ravaged other members of my gene pool. I may find myself making similar decisions someday, begging friends to watch over my cherubs, tears streaming down my face. What kind of friend am I?

The strange thing about the funeral was that while I was (with fellow Nightingale MR) ever-present in El's last months, I wasn't even acquainted with her three years ago. Ours was a short-lived love story. I met her and felt an instant connection. We shared so much - an outspoken, brazen nature - an intensity and a low-tolerance for bullshit, instilled in us from an Italian-American upbringing (probably). Her friends would gasp when they met me in her kitchen. They saw my hair. If you have ever seen me in person, you know my hair - it's big and bold and wild. Just like El's. Our kids actually look like siblings. They fathers' fair coloring blended with our dark features... I actually think that LS and N (my son) are very, very much alike beyond their nearly identical hair (of course, not the style). I could talk to both El and LS openly about the disease that was ruining their lives. El wouldn't sugarcoat her feelings about her situation and I'd listen and contribute what I could. It was an organic friendship.

This experience has reformed my feelings about friendship. An ironic juxtaposition, as I've been assisting El's family, I've been in a few squabbles. One in December. Another in January. Finally, another this past weekend. These situations have made me take a hard look at my beliefs on friendship.

What is friendship? Well, if you think you and I are friends, but we have never done anything to show one-another that we care beyond a superficial relationship, then likely we are not. A frank lecture mislabeled as candor doesn't always equate closeness. Gossip certainly isn't! And when we hurt one another (which friends sometimes do), friends forgive. Do you love me? If I love you - I hope I show it. It's the flip side of my low bullshit policy: reminders of how I feel.

Do you worry, do you care? Do you still show you care when no one is looking? Does that feeling translate to warm feelings towards your friends' children or parents? I love my kids' friends, even when I don't always like their behavior (but hey, they're kids!). When was the last time you performed a random act of kindness toward a friend? LL brought me matzoh soup when I had a cold last year. JJ brought me quiche last year to Taekwondo just because I said it sounded good. (And she promised me chocolate this week, even though it isn't exactly on my diet). TA routinely picks up my son from school, just so he doesn't have to walk. K included me in her birthday celebration, even though I wasn't part of her circle of girlfriends. And the Ms welcome Diego ANYTIME into their loving home. Several people have contacted me this week to see how I've been. I'm so lucky that I have so many friends to turn to, and I'm so lucky to be there for so many others. Who knew this social misfit in 1977 would have a diverse collection of friends?

I'm reminded of the reading from so many weddings, including my own... "Love is patient, love is kind..." It was originally translated with "Charity" instead of "love". Want a litmus test for friendship? Can you replace the word love/charity with friendship? Is your friendship patient? Are you kind to your friends? Are you easily angered?

As I said yesterday to LS (and the rest of the people at the funeral - in completely unprepared remarks after N begged, "c'mon Mom, you've gotta say something"), I wasn't friends with El for 37 years. I'd known her for two. It isn't how long you know someone, it is what you do with the time you have with them." I missed out on her wild parties, incredible costumes and camping trips but I've still been an important figure in her life and she in mine.

I would rather spend the rest of my life caring for people like El than spend one more afternoon arguing over minutia. One of my biggest challenges as a friend is keeping out of the vortex of superfluous nonsense. Let go of the unimportant. Differences of opinion on parental decision or political issues are too often a source of schism between friends. I can't tell you the hours I wasted over the last three months in an internal (or external) struggle. Angry phone calls in haste and carefully reworded e-mails are time wasted when I could have been finishing my husband's sweater, walking Diego with a friend or reading with my son.

That is the souvenir I am taking from my recent journey alongside a sick friend. Is your time together well spent? If not, change your activity! I've got 2 coupons for a free drink at Starbucks. I hope one of my friends will let me treat them to their drink of choice!

I forgot one thing. Last year a friend was financially strapped and sent out an SOS to her nearest and dearest friends asking her to help out with Christmas gifts for her son. Feeling you can ask for help is as much a demonstration of trust as giving it.

2nd addendum... A promotion of Random Acts of Kindness???? A friend just brought me the world's greatest brownies for no particular reason except that I said I could use a chocolate fix. If that isn't material proof of a good friend in need, then I don't know what one is! A thousand thank yous to LD and her lovely cherubs!


Freddie said…
Beautifully written, and very true.

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