When I was working, I once wrote a piece that started “Don’t count your friends on a sunny day…” The idea was that anyone can be your friend when it is easy. I suggested that you wait until the sky darkens and the clouds roll in and then you look to see who’s still standing beside you because that person is truly a friend.
Well, I must say that truer words were never spoken.
When my eye surgeon told me last week that he would be operating on both eyes and thus need to put me under a general anesthesia, I thought that meant that I’d be able to go to a hospital close to my house. “Great!” I thought, “one less stress in my life.” But, when his scheduler called me several days later, my bubble burst. She gave me an option of choosing one of two hospitals where he operates. One was over the state line and the other was in an area I haven’t been to in ages. And they required that I have someone take me and bring me home.
My friend, Iris, had volunteered to do it, but that was when we both thought it would be close to where we live. I would also be the first one on the schedule which meant I’d have to be there at 6:30 a.m. and Iris is a night owl, just the opposite of me. I told the scheduler I’d have to call her back.
First, I Googled driving directions to this other hospital and it was as intimidating to me as I feared, requiring travel on several different highways. I would definitely have to take a test run beforehand.
And then I sat and thought about it. There was a time when I would have been able to call any number of people and ask them to take me, but not now. I mean, to me, this is a BIG favor. My friend Babs took me to my last outpatient procedure, but she has dropped out of my life. I’m estranged from my little sister. Another friend can’t drive on highways. And still another has her hands full with an ailing mother right now and I didn’t want to add to her responsibilities. What to do? I’ve always been extremely independent and I have trouble asking people for help. I always have. I don’t want to be a burden to my friends.
I called Iris and explained about the hospital and officially let her off the hook. After all, this didn’t have to be HER problem. But, to my utter amazement she didn’t miss a beat and simply said, “Well, if we take a test drive and I know where I’m going, I’ll take you.” Tears filled my eyes and I said, “No, you don’t have to. You really don’t.” She persisted and said, “It will be an adventure!” Then I told her what time we had to be there and how early she’d have to get up and she countered with, “So? I’d have to get up that early if I was going on vacation and had to catch an early flight. No, I’ll do it.” And with this incredible act of generosity and kindness, she took the weight of the world off my shoulders. Now that, dear readers, is a FRIEND. The funny thing about Iris is that she doesn’t often get sentimental and mushy like I do, but she has a heart that’s so big and giving that I feel really blessed to know her.
Then last Friday I was out to lunch with my friend Dee and told her about my surgery and Iris’ wonderfulness. After I had finished, she very matter-of-factly said, “Okay. Then I’ll be your back-up driver.” I said, “What?” And she said, “If anything comes up, I’ll be your back-up driver. I’m putting the date into my Blackberry right now so that I’ll be ready, just in case.” And just like that I had a back-up plan.
I don’t know what I ever did to deserve these two friends, but they’re the real deal. I’m so lucky to have them and I thank God for them every day.
And here I thought I didn’t have any family! Boy, was I ever wrong.