Where to begin with this? Let’s see. I have been sick. A group of us who dined together on Wednesday night seemed to have been in contact with the same pathogen. On Thursday night between 11:00 p.m.and 3:00 a.m. most of us were in our respective bathrooms. The nausea was so bad I thought I would pass out. By three in the morning, my incoherence and state of dehydration forced my husband to take me to the Emergency Room. At 5:00 a.m. I was back home in bed after two hours of I.V. fluid and some medicine. I slept till about 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. It is Monday now and for the first time since Thursday evening, I think I can say I am much better. I am still physically weak, but I’m thinking better.
My best friend from college and her husband were here this weekend. The visit had been planned for a while. My husband asked me on Friday to call them, and let them know that I was sick. At that point we feared that what I had might be contagious, but calls and Facebook provided information that we probably had contracted our ailment through a food source. My friend said if I didn’t mind them coming, that they wanted to come. She said she was coming to take care of me.
I won’t describe my illness. I have a sibling who does that kind of thing much more justice than I do. It suffices to say it was rough and I was very weak and a my head not very clear when my friends arrived.
We are all now in our mid to late 50’s. I think we are all aging fairly normally. Hair gray or thinning , bodies thicker in places than we were before, more wrinkles, stiffer joints, wearing glasses, other than that, nothing had changed. In our minds we were all the same people we had known in the late 70’s and mid 80’s and it is one of those special friendships that simply takes up where it left off.
Slowly I was getting stronger after my illness. My mind was clearing. I was able to eat a bit. We talked about college days, when we had last seen each other. To the best of our calculations it had been over fifteen or more years, but none of us could clearly remember the details of that short visit.
They have two sons close in age to our two children and two more boys who are newly graduated from high school and now in college. Their life, as ours has been been full.
The saddest thing we share is that my friend has lost two brothers as we have lost our son, all lost in tragic accidents. I remember when she lost her brother when we were in college. It had been a automobile accident. I don’t remember the details, I know I went to her. She says I cooked for her. It was over 35 years ago. She is one of eight children if memory serves me correctly. This was one of her younger brothers. She had moved out into an apartment while she was in school. I had no idea how she felt when her brother died. I remember being at her family’s house, but no details. Ten years ago another of her brothers died in an automobile accident. He was a husband and father. I remember thinking how impossible it was that something like this could happen twice in a family. I don’t remember if I got in touch with her. I think it was after her brother’s death that I found out where she was living. We started calling each other, though not on a regular basis. Life was busy.
I realize now that our friendship after all, has never been a regular friendship – it has been an extraordinarily special friendship all along. We have a connection, she and I and so do our husbands. We all genuinely like each other and there is a comfort level that is hard to explain in that it is one that allows us the strange rite of silence. We are content to be in each others company without having to talk. It is a rite I shared with my son and share with my daughter and husband. I think it is akin to grace.
When I was sick I know I was not thinking clearly. I remember hoping that my son’s death was a part of the bad dream and my sickness. Sunday morning I was feeling a bit better physically but the mental anguish hit. I realized again full force that my son was indeed gone. I showered and entered the day and my friends were there, and my husband who had been caring for me so faithfully. They were a soft place to fall. We visited and talked, we knitted and watched a movie, my husband and her husband connected over hobbies and we caught up on the years that had passed. It was a long day, a gentle day. Wedding pictures and family pictures, grandchildren and puppies were shared.
That night both husbands said goodnight departing to their respective rooms and left us at the kitchen table. My friend and I talked. She told me details about her brothers’ deaths I had not previously known. I told her about that dreadful day in July and we both shed surprisingly less tears than I expected. We talked of our faith and I saw again the spiritual person that I think is the biggest part of her that I saw and was attracted to over 35 years ago. She is a comfort to me. I think we were a mutual comfort to each other. There was comfort in the fact that we are able to endure.
Earlier that Sunday morning her husband had told us of the places they had lived during the past years. He told of the places he had worked and the things he had done. He talked of Louisiana and life when they had lived there. When he was talking I remembered my friend telling me once about having to stand on the porch and push away floating objects covered with fire ants during storm flooding and I mentioned this to him.
“Actually he said, the fire ants are fairly waterproof. They form a ball around the queen to protect her and float her out of the colony. They float around.” he said “kinda like dung balls. “Once they meet a solid dry object they break apart and begin the work of setting up a colony again.”
That night as my girlfriend and I talked I thought about his story of the fire ants and their tenacity. I know there is an analogy for us there.
Make sure your friends are those who are close by to grab you when the floods of life come. Sometimes you may be the one grabbing or perhaps the one being grabbed. It may mean you are pulled to the center and bounced along until you can find footing again. To the rest of the world you may look like nothing more than a ball of dung, but there is still life there, and when unleashed again, a formidable natural force in its own right.
I wish for everyone a friend like mine. If you don’t have one, then be one for someone else. I wish for you a spouse like my husband, a daughter and a son like mine. I wish for everyone strong friends with strong hands to hang on to, because tough times are always there, and when you least expect them. It rains on the whole world. The strong, the weak, those who can bite like fire ,we are all washed up, cast adrift, to crawl up on dry land. We are forced to claim new territory as home and others as family because we, none of us, pass through this life unscathed.