#reverb10 Day 16: Friendship

22 12 2010

PROMPT: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

“Take care of yourself. Take care. Hold your heart gently. Pick your food the way you pick your shoes – with care – ’cause you’re going to end up wearing both. Take care, be careful, get assistance, It’s ok.”

Don’t give up. They reminded me not to give up: on our friendship, on the ability to overcome, on change, on them.

They showed me the outstretched hand reaching for the complacent one that I used to draw. In my sketches, they never touched. These friends forced me to see the importance of those two fingers, hands, lives touching and hanging on tight.

Madi was admitted to the hospital a couple of months ago-pancreatitis. She almost died. Really. She kept moving up the floors until she landed in ICU. Tubes, semi-conscious, bloated, pain, scared, we were all scared. I’ve never felt closer to this girl than I have this year. We have history and have let each other into the deepest parts of each other. She knew I had her back and I finally trusted that she had mine and that our friendship DEEPLY mattered to both of us.

I walked away one day from visiting her in the hospital and gave up.

I’m not that person that “never gives up”. I’ll let him go before he has a chance to let me go. It’s a defense. It’s not knowing when to fight for someone and when to let go and let them fight for themselves, not knowing that balance. So, at the first sign of trouble comes the letting go, the release, the backing away.

As she moved her way back down the floors out of ICU and to a regular room, I knew that SHE hadn’t given up. That SHE was fighting and needed me, needed all of us, needed us to really have her back. And we did. And she reminded me NOT to let go. That I don’t always have to move into “protect dayna” mode. I can stay and risk being hurt and feel the pain, if necessary.

When I realized that Smitty & Belva, at 88 and 89, would NOT outlive me (I know, I know), the visits stopped and voice messages were not returned for well over a year. Who wants to hurt? Who wants to say “good-bye”? Until the day that Belva called in February, her voice weak and she said that she needed me.   For the next 8 months, I drove about an hour each way once a week to spend a day with them, taking care, giving me, not giving up. Belva and I talked, really talked, about life, death, regrets, no regrets, frustrations. Smitty and I spent a day traveling through time and small Wisconsin towns, back to his old schoolhouse and forward to the remote graveyard surrounded by cornfields. All of this missed if Belva had let me give up.

Jim went through a divorce a couple of years ago. That is SUCH an understatement. Jim fragmented a couple of years ago. He was my supervisor and friend. It wasn’t a slow breaking apart, it was a smashed windshield, the causality of a head on collision. The driver thought that he was innocent, but we all take a part in our accidents to some extent, don’t we? At first, we all saw the broken pieces, but thought that they would somehow stay together, bonded by the thin plastic film that protects the glass from splattering. But they didn’t. The pieces slowly fell off, sometimes one at a time, sometimes whole sections. It was hard to witness. I didn’t have enough tape and was getting cuts whenever I tried to put some order to the mess.
And he didn’t care. But I did.
Last year, I gave up. I walked away from the scene of the crime and left it to the professionals to deal with.

But this year, he started to put a few of his own pieces back together. He laughs again. He doesn’t break down quite as easily and his brilliant gem ideas are buried under a bit less cow dung. He says that he still doesn’t care, but I was able to get him to the doctor. He lets me do things for him once in awhile (even when he thinks that HE’S the one doing something nice for ME).

They all taught me this year not to give up, not to walk away too soon. There’s a difference between setting healthy boundaries and still remaining open and vulnerable and supportive. I don’t always know the difference, but this past year I was reminded not to be too quick to jump back behind the concrete safety of my own walls.