The Friendship Tree

Yesterday was International Friendship Day and I wanted to pay tribute to all of my good friends as they make such a difference to my life. My best friend number 2, from High school days, gave me an analogy for friendship earlier this year and I loved it and wanted to share it here as she was so wise and it helped me a lot ,at the time:

I was told that relationships are like a tree , there are the friends and family that you can call at 4am and will drop everything  – they are the trunk. There are branches who are people who are close friends. There are friends who are friends because you met them at a group activity or school – they are the leaves that can fall away. Friends will move from one area to another and some will be replaced. It’s the way friendships grow and change and should never be taken personally.

I am lucky enough to have one tree trunk friend who I could call at any time of day or night, who would be there for me and would come to Joshua or me if we needed her. She even came once, without me asking. I was home alone with Joshua one night and he was having a bad bout of seizures and I was struggling. I sent her a message to tell her what was going on and half an hour later, she appeared at our door, with her enormous gentle giant Belgian Shepherd dog. She had recognised a friend in need and had not offered to come over, as I would have said no that I was fine, but she appeared and I was so grateful to see her and Buddy that night. The dog jumped onto Joshua’s bed and lay next to him, he sensed that Joshua was not well and tried to keep him calm, and she gave us both reassuring hugs. When she learned that we were not receiving regular professional respite, she offered to have Joshua for us, one night a month until it is resolved and that continues to be a generous lifeline. One time I was having a bad day at work and I was totally fed up and I texted my friend and asked her if she would run away with me in her motor home, so that I could escape. She did not ask why or try to solve my issues, she simply replied : I am packing my bags, will be there soon! It was the perfect response and made me smile; we both knew it was not happening, but the possibility that it could, was enough. That is a true tree trunk friend.

My friendship tree is blessed with many branches, close friends who I can call upon for support – maybe not at 4am or late at night, but I know they have my back and will support me when I need them and I feel the same about them. Two of them live in the USA and so dropping round is less practical, but they always respond with encouraging words when I need them. My first best friend lives in Texas and has been in Scotland, staying with her Mum, for the last 5 weeks but she flies home early next week. We had the best time visiting her recently , picking up the pieces of our long-distance friendship. There is something very special about having a friend who has known you for 50+ years. I know it is silly, as we still communicate by WhatsApp whether she is in USA or Scotland, but I will miss her when she returns to USA. I have enjoyed her being in the same time zone as me and the possibility of jumping in the car to visit is a reality. But when she is home, we will pick up our usual habit of me sending a message when I wake up, to see if she has gone to bed yet. We often exchange a few words before she goes to sleep and I treasure that contact.

I exchange hand-written letters and emails with my third best friend who now lives in Maine, USA. We have known each other since living together at University over 35years ago and having shared flats together, we are still close despite the distance and I think of her often. I am grateful to be in regular contact with my second best friend, from school days, and again WhatsApp is a great means of keeping in touch with her too. Her family is going through a few difficulties at the moment, so I am trying to support her as best I can, albeit remotely. It was this friend who can take the credit for the tree analogy.

I have had, and lost, many other friends along the way who are important at the time, but you learn that they are only temporary leaves on my tree. These are those who I worked with or who I got friendly with when Joshua was younger. At the time, as we shared work ,new babies or school in common, they were good friends for that stage of life only. But once the shared experience goes away, you find that there is little left that keeps you close and so with Autumn, they fall away and become acquaintances. But I am also lucky enough to have some good friends who are evergreen leaves, who hang around, even after we have left school, respite or work, as they are good fun and they too invest in our friendship. I perhaps have weekly or fortnightly, rather than daily, contact with these evergreen leaves, plus occasional meet-ups, and they are also a valuable presence in my life.

So whether you are my tree trunk, branch or a leaf, I thank you all for your friendship.

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