“There are three kinds of friends: friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime”.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.
I am extremely fortunate to have several lifetime friends. I have written about a few of them already. Sue and Cathy, my much-loved school friends who have known me forever and are the keepers of my teenage angst, many misadventures, and grown-up realities. There’s Tracey, my beautiful friend who I have known since I was 19 years old, provider of wisdom, thoughtfulness and so much more.
This next story though is about my friend Fran. A lifetime friendship which had a significant “bump” in the road a few years ago. We lost each other and had no contact at all. But after events beyond our control helped to reconnect us (the universe works in mysterious ways), we have found that the time apart has only deepened what we now know is an unbreakable bond.
Fran turned 60 years old last month and her special birthday inspired me to write, “The Story of Us.”
May you all have a friend like Fran and if you do, never let her go.
We met so long ago that nearly all of my memories, and certainly the important most memorable ones, have you in it.
You were the older sister I did not know I needed when you came to work in the same office I did. The year was 1984.
We were both married, unhappily but for different reasons. I remember infamously saying, “One of us is going to leave their husband and that will make the other stay.” Well, you made the break first and I followed in quick succession only weeks later.
We were already close but the time that followed our respective breakups just cemented our connection. We told each other everything, shared everything and it was a reckless, tumultuous time. But you were my shelter from it all. Wise and never afraid to tell me harsh truths we rode the waves of nightclubs, dangerous liaisons, cheap wine, crazy hair, and early mornings going straight to work from the night out before. Every fun, crazy moment and every broken-hearted, midnight phone call. We did it all and we did it together.
We shared loss. Your beautiful Mum passed away too soon, too fast. You had planned a trip back to your beloved Cotswolds in the UK to see your Mum and family but got the call to come early, “Mum is not well.” Flights hastily arranged you made a trip that I cannot begin to imagine, it would have been the long haul from hell. She waited for you, her much-adored; only child and you had precious time together. I find it unbelievably ironic that she passed away on the day you had originally planned to fly out to visit her.
You had already lost your Dad at the age of 14 so to fly back to the life you made in Australia, leaving remaining family behind in the UK…………….well your friends at the time had not even travelled let alone lost a parent. I feel you were so unsupported on your return. Not unloved but surrounded by people less than equipped to understand the magnitude of what you had gone through. What you were continuing to go through, essentially alone. You were 30 years old and single.
But, in true Fran style, flourish and forge ahead with such strength of character you did! You continued to excel in your chosen career of Court Reporting, your network of friends you were devoted to and you went on to meet and marry Rick, the man truly meant for you.
Then you gifted me with true, blind unconditional love. His name was Mitch, your beautiful firstborn son. To this day I cannot describe the feeling of holding him in my arms for the first time. I was smitten. Was it the depth of love I had for you being extended to your own flesh and blood? Maybe. All I know was that he had my heart and if I could love him that way I couldn’t wait to have a baby of my own.
So, as luck would have it, I did go on to have my own baby boy, Jesse, followed a few years later by your second son, Myles and then a few years after that my second son Matthew. We could not have planned it better if we had tried. Four boys between us, best friends, just like cousins; our families enjoyed such wonderful times together and shared in everything. It was just the best.
During this time you continued to be my very best friend. You helped me when I was scared and unsure as to what to do with a newborn. You reassured me I was doing a good job. You good-naturedly would push or cajole me out of my comfort zone and you would respect the way I wanted to do certain things. (And, let’s face it; I had more than my share of rigid routines!) I never felt judgment from you, only ever unconditional love and support. I know without any doubt that I would not have become the mother I did without your help in those early years.
You know me better than I know myself. You know us. You know what brings me the absolute, most happiness. You know what troubles me and why, most times before I have figured out the why.
For reasons that no longer seem important our near perfect friendship ceased for 2 years. I have many regrets about how that happened but perhaps it needed to. The friendship between the two of us, the glue that held everything together had become unstable and conflicts between our boys came between us. If I could go back in time and change things I would but then would we be where we are today?
News of my breast cancer diagnosis found its way to you and contact from you was immediate. Comfort in hearing from you appreciated. We reconnected, slowly, tentatively. The rush of feelings, my treasured friend was back in my life albeit just a little, it was warily exciting. The realization of all we had missed in each other’s lives was overwhelmingly sad.
And then………….my Dad died. You having lost everything knew the impact this would have on me. My Dad and I shared a big love. You loved him too and he adored you. A lunch date was planned and with you, I unburdened myself of the emotional load I had been carrying. It had been heavy and the weight of it was written all over my face. You listened and asked difficult questions. The time apart was irrelevant as we both opened our hearts to each other and chatted about EVERYTHING. It was cathartic and like your analogy of our friendship being like a pair of old slippers, I felt warm and cosy in your company.
Since then we see each other more often. It’s just us and we again talk about and share everything.
Fran, you are my due north. You have been my compass, my lighthouse, my guiding light for over 30 years. You have been my confidante, my chief. You have my utmost admiration for everything you have achieved in your life to date. How you constantly reassess and work at being the very best version of yourself. You are steadfast and true in your decision making (once you have made a decision that is lol) and thoughtful beyond compare. You love with everything you have and are the most loyal person I know.
Those that reside in one’s tight inner circle see us and all of our parts, the good, the bad, the ugly; always the truth. With you, I can be my naked, vulnerable self. Our time apart was ironically for me the worst time of my life and there was no substitute for you. I faced my life being threatened and the loss of my Dad without you. Not sure what the lesson is in that but I am so glad that whatever life may bring me and us that from now on we will be in it together. I promise to never let anything get in the way of US again.
I love you, Fran. Happy 60th Birthday.
And……………one more thing………..the time to retire is now. Do it.