25 November 2013

You Gotta Have Friends...

As my countdown to Thanksgiving continues, today, I’m thankful for friends.
I grew up in the same house that my parents moved into when I was a few weeks old. But after I left for college, I never lived in Raleigh again other than for summers before graduation and since then, I’ve lived in four different cities.
The beauty in that is that I still have friends that I made in second grade, as well as friends I’ve made in each one of those cities. A few years ago I had a birthday weekend in Sedona with my five best female friends and they all came in from different cities. I loved that. Only two of them knew each other before that weekend, but now they’re all Facebook and email friends and they see each other when they happen to be in the same city. There’s no better gift they could have given me.
I’ve written before about my three friends that I grew up with who stayed in the Raleigh area. In many ways, our lives couldn’t be more different, and though I’d like to think we’d be friends if we met as adults, I don’t know for sure if we would. As my parents have aged, these friends have proven their love and loyalty to me over and over again in ways that surround me like a warm hug. One of my favorite stories is 12 years ago we were cleaning out the aforementioned house because my parents were moving into a continuing care facility following my father’s stroke. If you haven’t gone through it yet, a continuing care facility is one of those places where you can go in living independently and then as your health declines, you go to a higher level of care. For example, my parents moved into independent living, but my father is now at the highest level of care in skilled nursing. Trust me, if you ever have any questions about these kinds of facilities, I’m your gal. Time and experience have made me and my sister unintended experts. 
Anyway, my mom had so many wonderful qualities, but being a good housekeeper was not one of them. Plus, my parents had lived in this house for decades so lots of stuff had accrued. The move had turned into more of a recovery mission than a rescue. We were just throwing things out left and right as we tried to meet the moving deadline. My friend Brenda was standing on a chair reaching into a cabinet over the stove that I didn’t remember our ever using. She pulled out an empty glass coffee pot-- or at least we thought it was empty-- until she realized there were several dead cockroaches in it. She just looked at the three of us and said, “I guess we’ll be throwing this one away.” No judgment, no disgusted face, nothing but love. 
That’s what good friends feel like: nothing but love. 
One of my friends is building a new house. Another friend and I have already picked out which spare bedrooms will be ours when we're old and grey. My friend thinks we’re kidding.
I remember when so many of my friends were getting married, I thought they wouldn’t have room for me anymore. And for a while, they didn’t. Especially when their kids were little. But as the years passed, it became so obvious that even if you consider your spouse your best friend (and I think more men think that way than women), you still need your girlfriends. There’s honestly not a difference in the depth and richness of my friendships with my friends who are single and my friends who are happily married. 
I’m also so fortunate to have some really great guy friends. Some are married, some are single, but they are so important to me and I get a completely different energy from them than I get from my female friends. I’ve never bought into the myth that men and women can’t be friends. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t go to my guy friends for advice.
And yet, with all my friends, there are times I still feel lonely, especially if I can’t find someone to do something with, like use an extra concert ticket (you’d think that would never be a problem, but you’d be surprised) or to take a trip. I got a wild hair to go to Barcelona a few years back and no one could with me when I wanted to go.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at realizing that if I can’t find someone to go with me to a certain event, it doesn’t mean I’m a loser, it just means my friends have very busy, full lives. It doesn’t mean they love me any less. 
My friends have made me a better friend. I still fall down on the job occasionally, but when I sometimes feel at a loss as to the right action, I just think about how they’ve acted in the past and mimic that. I’ll  always remember after my mom had died, I was emailing a good, but still somewhat casual, friend, and I told her. Two minutes later my phone rang. She knew that was the kind of news you didn’t answer in an email, you picked up the phone. Ever since then, when a friend has brought up a death in the family, I’ve picked up the phone. My friend’s simple move made us much closer friends and taught me how to treat others. 
Each day building up to Thanksgiving I’m giving to a food bank in one of the poorest cities in the U.S. Today’s $10 goes to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, which includes McAllen, Texas, the third poorest city in the U.S. 
Here’s a sobering and very unsettling fact, according to the food bank, 1 in 2 children in the Rio Grande Valley live below the poverty level. 1 in 2...how can that happen in America? 
McAllen also has the highest rate of residents without health insurance: 37%. Less than 64% of the adults have a high school education. This is like the perfect storm. May they find at least some solace and food on Thanksgiving. 
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