We met when my sister lived behind her in the New England suburb of West Peabody, MA. She is eleven months older than I am. We were teenagers when we got to know each other, sharing a love for my new-born nephew. She would babysit for him, her mother would clean house for my sister. We were instantaneous friends. She has been a fixture in my life since then.
My mother always told me that you can count your true friends on one hand. She’s right. Through all the years that have passed, “friends” have come and gone. Acquaintances have littered the years, some brought betterment to my life, and some were better forgotten. She is the one person who has remained and who I can say is my true friend.
Sometimes there would be long stretches of time when we wouldn’t see each other, or talk to each other. Not because of a falling out but because life would take its course and there were geographical separations, me in Florida, me two hours away in western MA, me in college, through all those life situations, She remained my confidante, she was the constant through the upheavals, the moves, the bouts with unemployment, the failed relationships, all of life. When we would reconnect, it was as though no time had passed, or we were in each other’s presence despite the miles that separated us.
She has always inspired me, her life filled with challenges that I think would have bested me. She always has the right attitude, and she handles her challenges with grace. She makes wiser decisions than I do. She is grounded. She gives of herself to others tirelessly. She is a good friend to others.
Now, in mid-life, we are separated by 1500 miles but she manages to visit in person. We can burn up the phone lines and we use email a lot. We are solid despite the distance. We share similarities in that neither of us married or had children. A circumstance that separates you from the majority of the population, but that binds us together. Animals mean more to us as a result. Our nieces and nephews are surrogate children, now on their own. Though childless we both know the pain of an empty nest and the joy of future generations. The children we knew are now having children. The cycle of life moves on.
From her I’ve learned to be patient, to love and show that love through actions. I’ve learned to assert myself, and to not take grief from others. I see the results of consistency in her life that will help make the second half of her life better than mine. She has been stable and focused. I have been erratic and scattered. Our paths have brought us to different places but we transcend the differences in position to a common familiarity. We are as different as we are alike.
The relationships that have gone from my life serve a purpose. Primarily to teach me something, then to make me appreciate the true relationships I have that have survived the passage of life. I am grateful for the experiences with these acquaintances no matter how fleeting the time spent with them or how painful their departure. They have made my gratitude for my true friend all the more intense.
We would say we’ll be sitting next to each other in rocking chairs on the front porch of the rest home. I don’t believe that but I do believe she will be in my life when I am old and we will have a comfort of shared history, and we shall remain forever friends.