Friendship. When I think about that word I see two different words smashed together. It’s obviously “friend” and “ship”.
“Friend” evokes a collage of people for me. Not a happy picture at all. In fact it actually makes me angry.
“Ship” brings up an instant mental image of the Titanic sinking and well…that pretty much sums up my experience with friendship.
I’m to blame as well though (sigh) for most of the failures pertaining to maintaining a healthy friendship. There is however one that I know I did not screw up and will treasure for all eternity.
My dad was my best friend. Always was and up until the day he died, I never even knew. As I type these words I realize, that’s the best friendship there ever could be. A friendship you knew didn’t even exist and not because you were blind to it, but because it was so natural and special that it didn’t bear being brought into the light continuously. There was no need to brag about it. No need to constantly remind each other and expect accolades for a job well done every day at keeping it alive.
It just thrived.
As a young child it was like a tiny seedling pushing through the soil. Begging to be nurtured by water, light and tenderness. On both ends. I was small and without a mother and my father was newly widowed and raising a baby on his own. We both needed that nurturing and shelter from the harsh winds and driving rains, and prospered and bloomed when the sun shone down and the breezes stirred gently across life.
Through the pre-teen years we were like a ground covering of Lantana. Hardy, yet still beaten down easily by the elements. Growing ever outward, reaching for the next bit of earth, covering whatever bit of space I could find. I was emerging from my bud and exploring new territory, and my dad? He was following behind me covering the inches I had managed to conquer, yet staying his distance as to not suffocate me. He didn’t drink all the water I needed but took what his flower needed and nothing more. Always next to me but his own separate plant.
Then everything morphed into a landscape of concrete and buildings and noisy traffic. Pollution. Cracked sidewalks with people hurrying by. Oblivious to who or what they stepped on.
In the midst of all that chaos was a rose, through the concrete in the middle of the hustle and bustle of teenage years. However my dad continued to push through the throngs of madness and keep watering the rose. His own foliage suffering the pounding of life, withering some days. Giving his own water and sun to me. Ensuring I still had what I needed to grow.
Once my own blossoms had been trimmed though, a new plant emerged. A new delicate shoot, so to speak. A son. I had become a fruit bearing plant. During this transitional period in life, all of the aforementioned horticulture references blended into one and I could not imagine at that time what my dad must have been feeling.
Drought. Floods. Intense heat alternating with cold and biting winds. It was a time of change and not just within my pot.
You see, my father’s roots were drying up. They had been my whole life. No longer able to sustain himself much less me, I became his caretaker. I was still that young plant he had watched come through the soil so long ago, it seemed, yet only yesterday. He however had weathered many days in the sun and needed my help now.
I gave my own water to him. My nutrients. Holding onto just enough to keep myself going along with trying to keep my new little bud healthy and alive.
In some aspects I was still that ground covering Lantana. Searching for memories of my father, ways to keep him alive. Other days I was that rose again, suffering the hardships that I had once seen before, only this time I was on the other side. I was the nurturer. The giver.
Then, one day, it was over. My father’s time. I sat in that empty room in my home after the funeral home had come and taken him. Looking at the empty bed where he once had laid, I felt so despondent. Empty. Much like a field of nothing. Just dirt. The grittiness of death harsh upon my heart.
Of course I did. My daddy had gone. Gone and left me to take care of myself now. My own son watching me from the door of the room while I just sat there. You see, for weeks I had known my father would be uprooted and taken away from me. My son had too. I’d cried my tears already. The one’s that came now were for my son. In a sense, looking back, those were nurturing tears. The circle of life, so to speak, had come full circle now.
My son now is in the chaotic concrete phase of life and I see myself struggling forth through the crowd of elements. I endeavor to keep his spirit alive.
Most people say that a parent and child should not be friends. I digress though. I think that the friendship between a child and their mother or father or both, each it’s own unique flower, begins from the first day that seed is planted.
The difference is that it’s hidden behind the love.
So when I’m asked what friendship means to me. Asked, to describe it or explain it. There is only one word that I can take from it in the end. Not two. One.