My friend, Ann, was recently very ill. In intensive care for 10 days. She feel ill as she was about to go on vacation to Holden Beach. We were already there. We had planned our vacation at the same beach, same time, so we could spend time with her and her husband Michael while they were there with her family.
We first met them in Atlanta, 15 years ago. Since moving away 12 years ago, we have been on vacation with them just about every year, if not every. It's one of those rare couples relationships where the chemistry works for all of us. When we are together we always enjoy good food, wine, conversation, but most of all hearty, uninhibited laughter.
Certainly when you move away from one city to a new one, friendships fade. Its just impossible to maintain them all when you are making new ones. But ours with Mike and Ann has grown, deepened. Perhaps it is the distance that makes it work better. There's much to catch up on when you haven't seen each other in many months. We don't really do email or phone calls. It's just better to save it for when we meet. There's always been security in that. We will meet again, it's just a matter of time.
Ann lives with an AVM, a malformation of her brain that can bleed at any time and cause excruciating pain not to mention threaten her existence. She had her first bleed in 1984 just after she met her husband, Michael. In the last year she has had two bleeds, the most recent being this past July.
Three days into our beach trip we got word from Michael that Ann was in intensive care. Michael seemed upbeat and positive about her condition, but there was something that he wasn't saying that bothered me. I hung up and cried. DH encouraged me to leave him there with the kids and fly down to see her. But I couldn't get in touch with Michael until we returned home on Sunday. By this time she had been in the ICU a week. "Don't come" he said. "She's miserable, in a lot of pain, on morphine and really doesn't want to see anyone. Come when she is out of the hospital. She'll have a lot of convalescing to do and she'll need someone to do it with her". Later, when she was home, he sent an email that said,"It was touch and go" while she was in the hospital. I knew there was something he wasn't divulging.
I felt guilty asking my mom to drive the five hours to help with my boys while I went to convalesce with Ann. I wasn't sure I could even be helpful, but I felt like it needed to see her and taking the family with me wouldn't be helpful.
I did help a bit here and there, but in the end, it was me who benefited most. I got to see my dear friend, alive and mostly well. Since she is still recovering, we had to time to catch up. She's different, understandably, and she recognizes it. It's something she will no doubt learn to embrace, you can't live through that kind of trauma without changing. "I thought I was dying" she said, just before I was to leave for home. Heavy, stuff. I didn't know how to respond. It's inconceivable to imagine.
I drove her to her doctor's appointment on my way out of town. As she got out she looked at me, tears in her eyes, "Thank you" she said. "You are like a sister." Since I don't have a sister and she has three, I was a bit stunned and took it as a deep compliment. I've always wanted a sister, but this has to be better- no family baggage.