With Friends Like These …

With Friends Like These …

Spread the love

The snow had just started to fall when we left church on Sunday. The forecast had called for a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain for some of the day, and it had held off until we were headed home. I was grateful. Winter weather, even though I’m used to it and grew up with it, makes me all kinds of nervous. Too many inexperienced drivers. Too much throwing caution to the wind.

I got into the van where my husband and kids were waiting for me. My husband seemed angry. Or maybe he was just tired. I couldn’t really tell. We drove home in relative silence. At the house, I ushered the kids into the kitchen to pick something for lunch while my husband retreated to the couch.

It wasn’t long before he found me in the kitchen and told me the chest pain he’d been having off and on for a couple of days was the worst he’d felt. He was worried. He wanted to know what I thought about going to the hospital.

My husband is 36, not old but certainly not out of the realm of possibility for heart problems. Just 10 days prior, his father had open heart surgery. It was weighing on all of our minds. We decided to proceed with rational caution. He called the 24-hour nurse line and described his symptoms. We thought maybe his new workout regime could be the culprit, but we didn’t want to assume this pain was nothing.

He hung up the phone and said, “Let’s go to the ER.”

Because my husband is a veteran, the closest ER is a 45-minute drive from our house. And on this day, the weather was tricky. And I had to drive because what if it was his heart?

Before we left, as we gathered our things and asked the children to pack a small bag for entertainment, I typed a quick text to friends of ours who lived in the same county as the VA hospital. I explained the situation. “Are you available to meet us there to pick up the kids?”

The reply was a swift and emphatic “YES!”

I have a complicated relationship with friendship.

I’ve never been one to have a wide circle of friends (despite what social media might tell me, but that’s a topic for a different post). I want to be friendly and I want to have friends and be friends with people, but my capacity for deep friendships is limited to a few.

In high school, I had three best friends. We were the Four Musketeers. We ate lunch together. Slept over at each other’s houses. When we graduated, my mom took us all to the Mall of America for a weekend of fun and shopping. Two summers ago, I attended my 20th high school reunion. I was the only one of us four who attended. But I had a great time anyway, mostly because of social media and the connections I’ve made with my high school classmates. I keep in touch with a handful of people from college, and I’ve had the opportunity to make friends in various workplaces both in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

I remember the first time a friend and I disagreed about something. It wasn’t major, but it caused a bit of conflict, something I wasn’t used to and definitely didn’t like, and I worried that maybe our friendship was over. This friend set me straight and showed me that friendship runs deeper than common likes and dislikes, that it can survive conflict.

I have made some of my best and truest friends in adulthood. I wasn’t told that it would be this way when I was younger, but I think it’s more common than we know. These friendships have been forged from necessity and adversity. I may not need a lot of friends, but I do need friends.

My hands gripped the steering wheel the entire way, and I drove at least 10 miles per hour below the speed limit, to my husband’s frustration. (I am, on the surface, calm, cool and collected in a crisis but inside I’m imagining every possible worst case scenario and trying to control what I can. It’s exhausting.)

I exhaled a breath of relief when I pulled up to the ER entrance and dropped off my husband. I parked the car with the kids and texted back to my friend that we were at the hospital. She promised to be on her way soon. The kids and I trucked ourselves into the waiting room where they immediately focused on a basketball game on the television. My husband was already checked in and was called in to the triage room a few minutes later. He came back out with two masks for the children, it being flu season and all. Within minutes, he was taken back to the ER while I waited with the children.

My friend arrived with two of her kids and a travel mug full of coffee for me. My kids climbed in, happy and excited to be hanging out with their friends for an unexpected play date. We didn’t say much, but we didn’t have to. They pulled away and I gathered my things and my husband’s and wandered back to the exam room where my husband was getting prepped for a CT scan. He returned a few minutes later, and then it was time for more waiting until the test results came back.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

It’s been a little more than a month since I started working part time. And I’m missing my friends. In my stay-at-home mom life and then my freelancer life, I had occasional play dates or coffee dates that were like life preservers I didn’t know I needed. (I’m terrible at initiating, and I fear rejection. It’s a fun combo when you’re trying to plan get-togethers!) I no longer have the regular and wide-open time for coffee dates, and I’m not used to making evening or weekend plans with anyone except my husband.

I’m drifting a little bit. While I’m with people a lot more than I was when I stayed home, they aren’t the same as friends. I miss being with people who know some backstory, who take me as I am, with whom I don’t have to pretend in any way. The friends who fit these categories would not compose a long list.

I don’t need a lot of friends. I do need friends. I also need enough friends.

The doctor came in and all the news was good. No heart attack. Nothing alarming on the scan. Blood pressure good. She advised my husband to see his primary doctor to follow up during the week, and we were soon on our way. My husband hadn’t eaten lunch so we swung through a fast food drive-thru and then made the cautious drive to our friends’ house. The kids were happily playing, and our friends were cooking Super Bowl food. They invited us to stay, but we really just wanted to be home. We had work and school the next day and it had been an exhausting afternoon. We chatted for a short while then rounded everyone up again and made the 40-minute drive home on roads of varying conditions.

We stuck with our Super Bowl food plan, mostly, and still enjoyed an evening together, with some weight lifted from our worries.

Three days later, the doctor would diagnose my husband with inflamed cartilage between his ribs and sternum, saying it would go away in a month or so. Crisis–seemingly averted.

Crisis. Or whatever name you want to call it, but it’s going to happen to most of us. And when it happens, we’re going to need friends. And we’re going to need enough friends to sustain us. Some crises are short, like this one I just told you about. Some are prolonged. Some are repeated. We need a healthy support system around us so that the burden of sharing our burdens does not fall on one person, one couple, one family.

My husband and I talked about this as we drove home. Who would we have called if we hadn’t had to drive 45 minutes away? Was our support system wide enough to cover all possibilities?

There are numerous benefits to friendship and I’m certainly not saying that we need to make friends just so we’ll have someone to call in crisis. But investing in friendships when there is no crisis is almost certainly a guarantee that you won’t be alone when the crisis hits.

I thought of this verse from Proverbs: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (NIV)

These deep friendships, these who-can-I-call-in-time-of-need relationships, are more like family.

It is a rare gift, I know, to have such good friends, and if I could explain in three simple steps how it works, I would. All I know is I have been privileged to cross paths with wonderful friends at the right time of life, whom I have needed and who have needed me. And I do not take the responsibility of friendship lightly.

For my friends, I will risk the rejection and muster the energy for initiating and show up in crisis.

Because friends like these are worth more than monetary riches. They are value that cannot be measured.


Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.