91: Friends for a Season

91: Friends for a Season

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Friends for a Season

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

~Flavia Weedn

When Beth left her husband, she left me too. Unforeseen, our friendship of sixteen years came to an abrupt end when she walked out with no explanation, no forwarding address, no phone message. Just left.

I struggled with my questions: What did I do wrong? She may have had problems with her husband, but what were her problems with me? I assumed we’d be friends for the rest of our lives, since I thought we’d been so close.

I loved Beth’s outrageous sense of humor, her dramatic way of spinning a story, the way we made each other laugh. We shared our deepest feelings, about our siblings and aging parents, our joy and frustration in raising our sons, both of us with two boys. We had a common interest in art and decorating, spending Saturdays hunting for treasures for our homes. Not only were we friends, our husbands and sons were close as well, sharing in church and Boy Scouting activities. Our families enjoyed summer vacations at the beach and cozy Christmas Eve dinners.

Pictures and memories were all that were left of our once thriving friendship.

Like children of divorce, left wondering when their parents’ love had become a lie, I wondered when our friendship had become a fake. Wouldn’t a real friend have confided what she was about to do? Not that she should have told me anything about their private struggle, but weren’t we close enough that Beth should have at least said goodbye?

My questions were never answered. Restless and sad, I coped in the way I had years earlier when my father died suddenly; I wrote. I put my questions into my journal and during the time I used to spend with Beth I developed my short stories and essays. Feeling more confident in my writing, I decided to attend a writers’ conference in Greensboro, an hour from my home. I felt a little hesitant, since I didn’t know anyone going to the conference, but then I reasoned that we all shared the same love of writing and with that common bond they wouldn’t really be strangers.

The morning was packed with sessions that allowed for little time to get to know one another. At lunch we were instructed to sit anywhere in the café area. I joined a table with a teenage girl and a man around forty. A woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties, like me, joined us. Her name was Erika and she lived within ten miles of me. We talked about how we started writing.

“I had to write to keep from going crazy!” Erika confided. “My dad came to live with us when he was diagnosed with dementia. I quit my job teaching English in a middle school to take care of him, and as it turned out I finally had time to write.

“My mother has dementia too. It’s so sad to see her changing. A lot of my essays are about Mama,” I told her. Not only did we talk about our parents having dementia, I was a middle school nurse and that garnered immediate empathy from Erika.

The man and girl finished eating and left. Erika and I talked on and exchanged e-mail addresses. We rushed back to the session that had just started as we took our seats.

Over the weeks after the conference, we sent regular e-mails, talking about our writing and our parents. Eventually we added comments about our husbands and children. Erika had four and both of us were dealing with how to parent children who were now in their twenties and living out of state. Within a couple of months we decided to meet at a coffee shop.

“Jeez, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Dad kept asking me over and over where I was going,” she said, breathless and running her hand through her hair as she sat down at the table. “I really needed to get out this afternoon.”

“Me too. Another crazy Friday in middle school!” I said as we stood in line to order our lattes.

We sat for two hours talking about everything: changes in our parents’ mental status, the disappointment of infrequent phone calls from our children, the way we coped with husbands who were in professions that were very demanding and kept them away from home. Eventually we got to our writing.

“I brought you these,” Erika said, and gave me several magazines and a list of websites. “I think you should submit that essay you were telling me about to this anthology,” she pointed to one of the web addresses. I could see the teacher in her as she challenged me. “Heck, I just write things quickly and send them off. That slap-dash method works for me. I don’t worry about it being perfect!” she said and laughed, her casual and assured attitude the opposite of my careful perfectionism. She had published a lot in a short amount of time and now she was generously sharing these resources with me.

“Thanks. I’ll do that,” I promised her.

And I did send it off. When I got the news that it was selected for publication, my first, I couldn’t tell Erika fast enough. She was delighted, even with my essay beating hers out from the finalists to make it into the anthology! In the months that followed, we e-mailed and met at the coffee shop regularly and attended writing conferences together. We met to celebrate birthdays and Christmas and the pictures from my older son’s wedding. We agonized over the next steps in taking care of our parents, the pain being easier when shared with a friend.

Now I think of the song I learned as a child: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” While I no longer have my friendship with Beth, I still have all I learned from her, and all the memories that remain. I don’t know how long Erika and I will be friends. But whatever time we have, whether it’s for a season or the rest of my life, I’ll cherish each moment as both silver and gold.

~Connie Rosser Riddle

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners