My neighbor’s husband, the husband of my grandmother’s best friend, passed away the day before. The news spread through our neighborhood quickly as bad news does, and I expected a street lined with cars as the next few days rolled toward the funeral. But I didn’t expect to see my grandmother first one at her house, offering comfort during a time she understood all too well as a widow herself. Something about seeing this deep act of friendship, this “showing up” of the most essential kind, made me reflect on my own friendships and whether or not I’ve put enough into them to deserve the same return some day.
My children are all getting older now. The days of chasing them through the park and coercing their limbs into strollers are long over and, on paper, there should be more time for coffee with friends and uninterrupted phone calls, but I haven’t made them a priority. When bad things happen, I send texts and flowers and offers to help, but there is a long list of obligations in front of my friendships. I often take the easiest route to show my support, rather, the one that makes my introverted self most comfortable.
My grandmother told me a story about when she and her friend were young moms, juggling kids two doors down from each other, no Internet, no Facebook, no DVD player in the car (CAN YOU IMAGINE?!). She smirked and leaned forward in that way she does when she’s going to tell you a secret that isn’t much of a secret, and she confessed to their evening trips to the corner store. “On those really long days, we used to walk there once our husbands got home. We didn’t have money to buy things in those days, so we would just read the greeting cards. We would laugh and laugh until we were crying in the aisle and then we would walk home and hope the kids were asleep. That’s how we got away in those days when we couldn’t have the fun you girls do now.”
I thought about that story as my grandmother and her sweet friend hugged in the driveway. And about friendship and how much easier it used to be, how much more difficult technology has made it for us. We’re given the excuses of email and social media when what we really need is a good long visit on the front porch or a day at the kitchen table in view of a street safe enough for the kids to play on until the streetlights shine. I watched these two dear old ladies embracing, shrunken to heights that compete with my growing kids. Both now without husbands, offering each other the purest of what they have left: each other.