Her car rolled past my house pushing three miles per hour, partly because she’s nearly 90 and partly because she was coming to a stop two doors down. I was making breakfast in the kitchen that was once hers, standing where my grandmother stood years ago, buttering bread and scrambling eggs. My heart caught when I saw her go by, hands at 10 and two, chin nearly touching the steering wheel. It was summer at 9 am, my kids were still wearing yesterday’s popsicles stains but my grandmother was dressed to match her purse that matches her shoes. She woke up knowing just what to do and stepped from the curb towards her best friend’s front door with arms already outstretched.
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 towards the funeral. But I didn’t expect to see my grandmother, first one to her home, 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 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 street lights shine. I watched these two dear old ladies embracing, shrunken to heights that compete with my growing kids. Both now without husbands and offering each other the purest of what they have left.
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