Recently I read a sweet blog. Essentially an ode to what a good friend is. I just finished a book that spent a lot of time on the protagonist's best friendship (damn you jodi picoult).
But I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy after I read them.
They were sweet and true and most days or weeks I’d like them.
Just not this one.
Good friends are easy.
They don’t require thought or upkeep, makeup or cleaning out your car.
But maybe even better friends are sometimes hard.
Almost exactly a year ago, one of my closest friends lost her dad. And I drove 3 hours each way just to give her a hug. We don’t speak every day or even every month. But, when I walked in that room we both started crying. Less than 20 minutes later, I got in my car and drove another 3 hours back. Those six hours meant more to our friendship than any of the icecream, or silly notes in class, or cupcakes. More than Prom night or graduation or college road trips or any amount of hours of talking or texting on the phone ever could.
Almost exactly two years ago, another friend had a stillborn son. And this was a friend that I adored, but had honestly hardly seen or thought about in years. But my heart broke for her. And somehow I knew what to do. I held his ashes and looked as his pictures. And something about sharing that with her tethered me to her in a way I can't explain.
It isn't quite the same, but tonight I spent my evening in an assisted living facility at a memorial service for a man I had never met. I didn’t even know his first name. But it was my friend’s father-in-law and so we got a babysitter and ironed our clothes. And while we sang Amazing Grace I looked around the room and noticed that several of the couples in our Sunday school class had shown up. I watched her children being passed lap to lap. Even though over half of these couples aren’t programmed in my phone and only a few are ones I meet for coffee or dinner, but my heart still warmed and I couldn't help but look around the room and think, "this is what real community looks like". Showing up, hymns and vegetable trays.
Quantity is no match for quality.
Recently I had what I think was a gallbladder attack in the middle of the night. I didn’t go to the hospital but I probably should have. At 2 am and in pain I was trying to decide who to call. To either drive me or to sleep on my couch because I couldn’t leave my kids alone. And I am lucky enough to have serveral people I felt like I could have called. But my list was not quite what I expected. Thinking of who you’d call at 2 am is a surprising test of who matters. Who you can count on. Some of the people weren’t ones that I talk to all the time. One was someone I was barely speaking to. And a few of the people I talk to more regularly would be pretty low on the list of who I’d call. (and yes, you have to factor in proximity and kids and jobs and spouses….and NO…I’m not giving up my list…I’m just saying it was revealing).
When I get really good news or really bad news it is who I want tell second, and third and fourth ( after Shaun of course)…and sometimes it is the person I just saw. And sometimes it is a friend hundreds of miles away that I almost never speak to. Who I’m not even sure I can count on. But it is who I want when it matters.
And I don’t just mean they show up for the hard stuff.
All of my oldest friends and I have had seasons of bad.
Where it was work.
Or awkward. Or frustrating. Or hurtful.
Sometimes I didn’t even like them very much.
And I’m positive sometimes they didn’t like me.
And they usually had good reason.
Sometimes they go completely quiet.
And sometimes you have to let them.
Which is always more than a little bit hard for me.
But I don’t think it makes either end any less.
The hanging on or the letting go, both are difficult.
And to quote one of my favorite friends that I almost never talk to but love like I do anyways:
"Sometimes words are just noisy."
And mostly yes. Friends show up. They call back. They meet you for coffee and pick up your kids. They talk about everything and nothing with you. They let you cry or rant or tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. And all that sweet fun stuff.
But I think what matters more is the harder stuff.
You can call them at 2 am.
Or to pick you up when you have a flat tire.
You can call them even if you haven’t spoken in a long time.
They go to funerals or hospital rooms or bring food.
Even if you don't like them very much. Or haven't spoken in ages. Or are miles apart or just down the street.
That kind of stuff hardly matters at funerals and 2 am.