In the friend department, I have been richly blessed. I am still close with a few grade school friends. I count my blood sister among my dearest friends. A few of my Delta sorors have had my front and my back in the various cities we’ve lived in. And a few of my closest friends are women I’ve come to know and trust since I moved to Atlanta more than 20 years ago.
In the past couple of weeks, I reconnected with two longtime friends I hadn’t talked to in a while. Emails and Facebook messages don’t count. Both are happy and healthy. My girlfriend in Alabama has a new man in her life and owns her own business. One of my sorority sisters, who lives in the D.C. area, has been through a few storms but weathered them like only she can.
Even before we decided to pledge the same sorority, we were friends. Our families are similar and we are close to our siblings, parents and extended family members. She was a cheerleader and track star in middle and high school; one of the popular girls who is still beautiful inside and out. She was by my side in birthing classes, teaching me how to take short quick breaths. When my oldest daughter made her arrival, she was in the delivery room with me and my mother, keeping me focused with sharp commands. That was the first and last time I would do natural childbirth. I would not have survived if it weren’t for her cheerful yet focused instructions.
When I called her the other day, we picked up where we left off without missing a beat. She’d been keeping up with me on Facebook and planned to call me on my birthday. She caught me up on her husband and the rest of the family and I was glad to hear that her parents are still going strong. When we ended the conversation, I had a tinge of sadness. She had gone through these storms without a word to me. Why didn’t you call? I asked. When she told me her reasons, I completely understood. In fact, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Sometimes when we’re in the midst of a storm we withdraw. We may confide in our husbands or parents but for whatever reason, we fail to call on the sister friends who’ve been there for us through thick and thin.
I’ve known my friend in Alabama since our early days in journalism. She was the pretty TV chick that everyone wanted to meet. I was a low-key newspaper writer who invited her to meet my family and introduced her to a few of my sources. We media types tend to move around quite a bit so it wasn’t long until she moved to a larger market and I moved to a bigger newspaper. But we always manage to keep up with each other. Earlier this year I heard she was coming to Atlanta to take part in a panel discussion on life after journalism. Most of the people came to hear about how she developed her business using the media skills she’d honed over more than 25 years in broadcasting. I went for selfish reasons: I wanted to catch up with my friend. To my surprise, she ended up taking part in the panel via Skype, so we didn’t get to see each other after all. We talked a bit after the event and I called her recently to get help setting up a few interviews in her town. Within a day or two, she sent me a long list of people to connect with and made a few calls on my behalf.
It’s a great feeling to know you can pick up the phone and reconnect with a long-lost friend. Our relationships with friends are like gardens — in order for them to flourish we must tend to them. Every now and then, some pruning is necessary for our health and well-being. Sometimes, friends grow apart. When a friendship gets to that place, sometimes it’s better to stop trying to force it.
I am challenging myself this year to do a better job of checking in with my friends, by telephone or in person. Texting is not enough; neither is email. Sometimes you need that personal connection. As the old folks says, sometimes you need to lay eyes on a person.