I’ve been thinking a lot about friends lately. We are social creatures, and I believe that we need to have the interaction with others as a vital part of good mental health. I also think that our choice of friends has a lot to do with maintaining a sense of well being. I’ve had to make painful choice of cutting friends loose that have been very dear to me, but a negative influence and detract more than they enhance. I’m also fortunate enough to have other friends that are uplifting and supportive.
Sometimes it’s the worst of times that prove just how good a friend can be. I met a lady a little over a year ago that started as a dating opportunity but developed more into a solid platonic relationship. We did date for a while, but even then it was more like friends with benefits. As a romantic relationship it just never took off. We met at a very difficult time in my life, shortly after the end of my last marriage. I wasn’t ready to date, but had put myself out there as a way to try to move forward after the loss. We initially spent a lot of time together. She had recently ended a relationship of her own and we were both lonely.
Her circumstances were a little bit unusual… She was still married.
Now, it’s not as it seems. She and her husband had been separated and she had been living on her own for five years. Both her children and her husband ‘pretended’ not to know that she was seeing other men, and she went out of her way to keep it that way. But she wasn’t going to be alone either. The official reason that they had never divorced was that they owned a fairly significant piece of property, and they were waiting until the economy came back so that they could get top dollar when it came to selling it for the equitable distribution from the divorce. It was more than that however. They still did a lot of things as a family. Holidays they all came together and celebrated as they always had. Their son was a high school football coach, and during the season they went together to the games to cheer him on. Three or four times a year she would go to ‘their’ house and give it a good heavy cleaning. When she was sick, he was there to take care of her, and vice versa. It was evident that they still loved each other, they just couldn’t live together.
I think that was a big reason our own relationship developed as it did. She was ‘free’ to date, but I don’t think she was ever really comfortable with pushing it but so far. I really wasn’t over my ex, and was also more comfortable with a platonic relationship. Over time even the physical ‘friends with benefits’ aspects became awkward, and eventually just stopped. We became just friends.
Our friendship was pleasant, and we talked on a regular basis. We would even go out dancing together or out to dinner from time to time. But it never really felt like anything more than a solid, casual relationship. We didn’t share our secrets. Our conversations were more about the day to day and never really got into anything too serious.
I never mentioned being bipolar.
I always knew that our friendship was something we both had come to depend on for companionship and positive support. I never really realized just how important it was, or how close we had really become.
Until her husband died.
His death was totally unsuspected. As it happens, they both work for the same company, so when he started to have issues she was immediately called to be with him. He had all the signs of a heart attack, but when the paramedics got there, there was no indication that it was his heart. But he was obviously very sick. She went with him to the hospital, and was by his side when he died an hour later. It wasn’t his heart, but apparently he had an aortic aneurism that had ruptured.
And then I found out how important I am to her.
Of course she had already called their children when they were on their way to the hospital. One of them had made it in to the hospital before he passed, and the other was only minutes away. Now, she has a lot of friends. She’s very personable and has had some very dear friendships that have lasted decades.
I was the first one she called.
It wasn’t a long conversation, but she wanted to let me know as soon as it happened. That’s when I realized that our relationship was more than casual. My own reaction to the news let me know how much she has come to mean to me too. Even though they had stopped living together as a couple, he remained her husband, and his death was just as devastating to her as if they were still happily married. My heart was broken for her.
So you never really know. People that you interact with may be a more significant part of your life then you ever realize. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to find out. Or maybe something really good happens that you just have to share, and there is someone you think of first that you need to share it with. Or it might just hit you one day; this person is a necessary part of your life.
I don’t feel like I ever took her for granted, or ever thought that she wouldn’t be there for me. But it wasn’t until this happened that I understood that, in spite of the apparent casualness of our relationship, it was deep and true. And it’s been an important lesson for me. I will cherish all my friends regardless of the type of relationship we might seem to have. You just might find out one day that they are much dearer then you knew. And maybe you’ll learn as I have with this relationship:
They are one of the best friends you’ve ever had.