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Joe and I basically have three couples who we consider close friends. We met years ago when our kids started Pre-k together. And while our kids have now all left the nest, our friendship has stayed strong. In simple terms: we really like them.

Last fall, one of those friends was in the hospital, only she didn’t tell me until she came home. A few months ago, the mom of another one of those friends passed away, and I found out on Facebook.

Then I got a text from the third friend telling me her dad was in the hospital and not doing well. She ended the text with this: “If it was your mom, I’d want to know…” It was like she thought she needed to explain why she was sharing this incredibly important news.

It was a blow each time this happened, and it made me question our friendship – a tiny, tiny bit. I know if they were asked, each one of them would list me and Joe as their close friends, but isn’t that who you call when something momentous happens, good or bad? That’s what good friends do, right?

I’ve always considered myself a little unusual as a friend, because I can go for months not seeing someone – not calling/texting them either – and I still consider our friendship as strong as ever. I’m not sure if everyone thinks that way though.

The topic was on my mind for months, and every now and then I would ask someone how often they talked with their friends. I kept trying to find the answer to this one question: What makes someone your close friend?

I used to think a person was your good friend simply because you thought they were, or maybe because when you wanted a fun night out, they were who you called. But then those major life moments happened, and I realized there is more to a friendship. I just couldn’t define that “more.”

So on a Saturday night at dinner with 2 of those 3 couples, I popped the question: What exactly makes us close friends? I mentioned not knowing about the hospital stays, and I brought up the obituary on Facebook. They apologized and apologized, but no, I told them, that’s not why I was bringing this up. Aren’t those things good friends would call about (or text), and since you didn’t, are we really good friends?

I believed I knew what they would answer, and I was right: They all said quickly and instinctively we were the best of friends. But what, I asked, is it that makes us close – that stumped us.

Having a history counts, we all agreed. We’ve known each other for over 20 years. And having shared experiences counts too, which we all had. We live in the same town and like to do similar things. We’ve travelled together and have great memories from our getaways. (Our one friend broke two toes – one on each foot – in Jamaica, and no one knows how. That’s a good trip.)

But we agreed that you could not have those things and still be very good friends. So what was it?

We couldn’t figure it out, so we went on and had a great night with our really good friends. But for days I kept thinking about it, maybe because I wanted to be sure I was doing enough to be called someone’s close friend. And then, my mom fell.

One of these friends works in healthcare, so when we took my mom to the hospital (where she ended up staying overnight), I spent the next 24 hours texting him. And he immediately texted me back, every time. It went on late into the night and started very early the next morning.

Every time I thought to send him a text or my mom asked if I would, I didn’t hesitate to pick up my phone. I was certain he would help me quickly, selflessly. He was my close friend, so I could count on him to be there when I needed him. I suddenly realized that was true for all 3 couples. It was such a significant – and comforting – revelation.

I sent my friend this text after I dropped my mom at home: “Isn’t it interesting this happened right after our dinner conversation about friendship? Guess we just answered the question. Thanks for everything.”

My good friend answered back, “Any time.”

Finally, I got my answer.

 


Read more Wide Awake here.

March 2020
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