When I was a kid, my grandmother filled my head with all these sayings:
- A friend in need, is a friend in deed.
- A rolling stone gathers no moss.
- The early bird gets the worm.
- Blood is thicker than water.
- Birds of a feather flock together.
- Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
- No man is an island.
I used to ponder them. I would imagine a stone with moss on it, rolling.
This week’s winner was: Blood is thicker than water. I keep thinking it over and over again.
I was eager to settle the power of attorney problem. I could see “future me” laid up in a hospital bed and my husband freaking out, not being able to cope. Who would manage things? Who would pay our bills—with our money?
I addressed this question to two family members and to two friends. It’s an interesting problem. The family members are people I don’t really know. I know certain things about them, but I haven’t really ever talked to them. We haven’t had a meeting of the minds. We’ve never spent much time together.
The friends, on the other hand, I have spent hours upon hours with. Days. Years have gone by and there have been numerous conversations.
Further breaking this down, one family member was mine and the other was my husband’s.
My friends ran.
Well, not literally. They were concerned that somehow they could be held financially responsible for me.
I tried to explain that this was more of a risk for me than for them, a huge leap of faith for me in fact. But they felt exposed and not up to the task. If I were lying incapacitated in a hospital, they’d be happy to sign the get-well card, but they would not be there, not in any real sense of the word.
My aunt, who I have seen once in my life as an adult, stepped up. She accepted, with “I’d be glad to help you.” My niece also said yes and that she loves us.
I am humbled that I can call upon people I barely know to do such an important and intimate task. I am truly grateful.
I am also saddened that the people I spend the most time with…well, how do I say it? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I realize that I spend a lot of time on people who like me, but up to a point. There are limits. They both felt bad about saying no. I had asked too much. I had ventured too close. And yet, if either of them needed me, I would be there without hesitation. What else is there to say. I feel empty.
There are even people from years ago who could call me out of the blue and I would be there, regardless of time passed, regardless of hurt feelings. I wouldn’t even want to talk about it. What’s wrong? How can I help?
I told my friends that I understood their hesitation. It was a lot to ask, if such a thing came to pass. It would be a huge responsibility. It would mean really stepping up. Brene Brown comes to mind and her talks on vulnerability.
I tried to shrug it off, but asking made me feel the most vulnerable I’ve felt in years. Just the fact that I needed to ask, the circumstances behind my asking, and that when it came down to it admitting that these two people were the people outside my family that I considered to be my best friends in the world.
It’s a lot to ask someone—to ask them to truly be your friend, when you really need one.
Don’t ask unless you can stand to know.
So it would seem, I don’t have any real friends.
But I suppose I do have family after all.