Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friends Part two

Again I was blessed to have a friend like Denise during those years which can be so tough on some young people. Those years of first love and despair, experimenting with clothes, makeup and hairdos. It was lucky we had different taste in guys and never fancied the same bloke! Quite the opposite really. We knew if we really liked a guy if we still fancied him after the other had finished pulling him to pieces (or "rubbishing him" as we used to say). I still feel it's rather amazing that I really like Barry, the man she married, and that she liked Bryon. Although to be honest, Bryon disliked her intensely and thought that our attachment to each other was "unhealthy".

These three friends still form the core of my friends. They are there at the centre. I don't know many people who have been lucky enough to maintain such strong links with the friends of their youth, and I give thanks that I have been.

Many other friends have come and gone and influenced my life in some way since then. A few have come in and stayed. One of these is the lady your mum calls Aunty Bev (she's actually your grandad's second cousin). We became friends when Bryon and I first came to New Zealand, when I had three young children and was miles from the familiar surroundings of my home. She had four young children and her kids and mine grew up in an intertwined family, especially after her husband was killed in a tractor accident when my fourth child, Justine was 6 weeks old. In the years following Neal's death I was Bev's support but there have been many times since that she has been my support. It seems to me that we met at a time when I needed a friend, cemented our relationship in a time that she needed a friend and consequently have been there for each other ever since.

I don't think you ever realize when you are young how much a friend can love you, or how much you love a friend. At least I never did. Friendship was something I took for granted. It wasn't until your Aunty Justine was eleven that I realized how wrong I had been to take Bev's love and friendship for granted. I just knew she would always be there for me if I needed her and knew she knew the same was true in reverse. But then Justine had an accident when she fell off a horse while she was staying with your grandad and I was visiting my family in Australia and in her misery she rang her Aunty Bev. It takes at least six hours non stop driving to get from Aunty Bev's house to Wellsford where your grandad was living at the time but Aunty Bev jumped straight in her car and drove up north, collected Justine and headed back to Taranaki, stopping only in Tuakau to see your mum and tell her she was taking Justine home to her place. It was school holiday time (Aunty Bev was a high school teacher) and the next couple of weeks of Bev's holiday was spent taking Justine to the doctor twice a day to start with, then every day to have her dressings changed.

I have to veer off the track here for a bit. It is one of my beliefs that we attract the experiences we need in this life, the experiences we need to learn and grow. And that we usually have "accidents" when we our inner minds, our subconscious, is dealing with something. At the time we often don't realize that this is happening, we think we are fine, it's only later when we look back that we understand that we were dwelling on something within ourselves at that time.

So I thought it was a strange quirk of fate when I dropped the electric jug and burnt my legs a couple of days after I got back from Australia and Bev had returned Justine to me. Justine and I both had to visit the doctor daily for weeks after that. I felt I was a bad mother because my child had been injured while I was on holiday, I felt a failure because my marriage had broken down and my younger children were growing up with parents who didn't love or respect each other. And, although my legs hurt, they were nowhere near as badly damaged as Justine's were. And then I would think of what Bev had done for me, for my child, and felt unworthy of such a friend. At night in bed I would think how could I ever re-pay her. It was ages before I came to accept that friends don't have to re-pay each other, that friendship is not something you trade, it's so special because it just IS.

It also seems to me that God, or your guardian angel, or whoever or whatever it is you believe is the power that organises things in this world, sends people along to help you when you need it. Just a quick example. When I was going through a particularly rough time just before your grandad and I lost the farm and our marriage was falling apart, I was having a really hard day at work. One of the managers (Warren Cook) where I worked was a very cheerful, jovial type, always tormenting and teasing and I usually appreciated his good humour. But on this day he was hassling me for something that I didn't have the time to do for him and as I sat at my desk and he stood there half behind me rabbiting on, I put a hand to my forehead to block him off and said, "Not today, Cook." I thought he had gone away but the next minute I felt a hand on my shoulder and a gentle squeeze. I didn't even look up from what I was doing, just said, "Piss off, Cook." But as soon as he was out the door I had to rush off to the toilet and cry my eyes out. It was the only time during that difficult period that I cried. I dared not, was scared that if I let a chink appear in my armour I would crack and never stop. But the human contact, just a hand on my shoulder, that unspoken support nearly undid me. I don't think at that time he had the slightest idea what my troubles were but he reached out to me and touched my heart. Right then when I felt so alone, I knew I had a friend. Cook, his wife, Irene and I became great mates and it was a friendship that puzzled many work colleagues and it started with a hand on a shoulder when I needed it.

I had two other "accidents" in the year that followed my separation from your grandad. The second was just a few days before Christmas when Justine and I were putting up the Christmas tree. We had the tree positioned where we wanted it and Justine wanted an angel she had made to sit right at the very top. To reach up high enough, I had to put a chair on my desk and as I reached over to put the angel in place, I put too much weight on one corner of the chair and the leg broke and down I came, cracking my ribs against the desk as I fell. Instead of an angel on top of the tree we had a monster under the tree. I was hurt and angry, and shouted at Justine to get this bloody thing off me. But, Michael, do you see, I was hurt and angry inside too. The hurt of those broken ribs did not ache near as much as I did with the thought of my first Christmas without Bryon. How was it going to be a happy Christmas for my children?

I don't know if that was a happy Christmas but it was one that started some healing for me. Your Mum and Dad had only been married a month and it must have been hard for your Dad coming into family he thought was a family, then being told when they got back from their honeymoon that I was leaving. That Christmas Day we did the usual things in a quiet, subdued fashion. After dinner that night we played a board game, then Chris suggested Charades which was a lot of fun. I laughed so much my ribs hurt very badly. Then we sat quietly around the dining room table and the kids and I talked, honestly and openly about my separation. And they gave me the most wonderful gifts I have ever received at Christmas or any other time - the gifts of acceptance and understanding from my children. (It was exactly ten years before I experienced a Christmas to equal that one, and that was the Christmas Eve that Danny and Heather told us they were adopting twin baby girls. And that became an especially joyous Christmas, with the greatest gift of love - the gift of life.

I got off the track there a bit. Just like how you never know how a friendship will develop, I never know where my thoughts will lead me.

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