Special People

I usually approach trite, treacly prone topics with caution, or avoid them all together.

Not this time.

Three times in the last 24 hours, I’ve been reminded of how lucky I am that I have the friends I do (and many more times than that during the past year, but I don’t have space to recount them all). I think I briefly mentioned here once before that seeing friends we left behind when we headed to Chicago is about the only positive of the upcoming move back East. For a variety of reasons, probably primarily my house-bound job, my shyness, and the difficulties of making deep connections later in life,  I have few friends here in  Chicago, and only one of them I would feel comfortable calling at odd hours to discuss some woe or ask for help.  Back East, thankfully, I have many.

One of those good friends wrote a touching New Year’s Day email yesterday, and he said that he thinks he’s looking forward to my moving back more than I am. I cannot deny it. Another friend, as she often does, sent a link for something she knew would interest me (on blogging, actually, and though I have not checked it out myself, I’ll share it here, because I know if she sent it, it’s gotta be worthwhile). And this morning, I had a nice, long chat with one of my oldest and closest friends, a man who has been an inspiration to me in so many ways during these long years we’ve known each other. (And who courageously woke up more mornings than he would like to recall with my ass in his face, as we shared a tent during a summer-long backpacking trip through Europe.)

I don’t think he would mind if I shared his story. He has been very open with his illness – Parkinson’s disease – writing about it and trying to help others who have it realize that they are not alone. Wax is a talented musician, he has crafted beautiful items out of wood, he taught himself the intricacies of SEO and spoke about it around the world. Many of his passions and favorite activities are now just memories or extremely hard to pursue, as the disease tightens its grip on his body. And this ongoing ordeal comes after a spate of challenges that most of us would not want to face in a lifetime, let alone in the few years it took for them to unfold for him.

Yet, despite all that, he remains intellectually and spiritually vital. He cannot change the fact of his Parkinson’s so he has accepted it, and used it as a catalyst for his new creative endeavors. I used to envy him his musical talents, his way with women (with all people, really, his ease at putting them at ease and getting them to open up and laugh), his ability to keep things in perspective. That last trait has stood him in good stead the last few years, and I wish I had about a tenth of what he has of it.

As you’ve probably noticed, I can be a whiner. I have chronic pains and deeply embedded anxieties. But when I look at Wax, or think about his situation, I tell myself to shut the fuck up. What do I have to complain about, really, compared to the people who struggle with something like Parkinson’s or ALS or any number of other diseases that slowly sap away their victims’ essence. But no, not their essence – I know the Wax I hear, his voice fading a bit even as we merely chat, has an essential energy that remains unchanged. That has perhaps even multiplied as he has coped with this latest of challenges.

I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. The disease and the drugs, from what I hear, can make it hard for the caretakers of Parkinson’s sufferers. The sense that time may be running out for the victims may make them a wee more self-absorbed (though I bet still much less than I am on a typical day…). And having the disease doesn’t make Wax or anyone else with it some kind of saint. But how people respond to life’s bullshit and unforeseen challenges says a lot about them. I am proud to call Wax my friend, glad he thinks well of me, and seeing him on a more regular basis, more than anything else, will bring me joy when we get back to CT.

I’ve told Wax that watching how well he sustains through his tribulations makes me feel like a schmuck when I bitch about my problems. He wisely points out that everybody has problems, and from inside your own head, they always seem big. I have had my share of calamities, some fairly large. I survived them. I will survive whatever travails come up this year regarding the move, and others yet to reach the horizon that I’m sure I never could have imagined. For the challenges past, present, and future, having friends is key to getting through. Like Wax, they inspire. They help. They listen. They make you laugh. They know when to say you are so full of shit. Like I said, I feel blessed to have so many of them in my life. But Wax, man, you are special. Only you bore that bare butt in your face and never complained. That is friendship. Hell, if you can get through that, Parkinson’s is a face of cake.

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~ by mburgan on January 2, 2009.

11 Responses to “Special People”

  1. I’m jealous.

  2. Dillywren – Think I know what you mean, but not sure. You must have friends like this too, or just as likely, are that kind of friend to someone else.

  3. I have no friends that I “would feel comfortable calling at odd hours to discuss some woe or ask for help”. I have a boyfriend that I am that close to, and parents who would do anything for me, and an intentional community that has a few members that might be able to fill this role eventually. But friends? No one that close. I have friends… but I would feel far too guilty, or like I’d crossed a line, if I needed to talk at, say, 2 a.m. The only person I could call at that time of night is my boyfriend, who lives about 2 hours away from me and who, despite having the best of intentions, rarely has the right type of life experience or perspective to be extremely helpful with a SERIOUS problem I might face.

    I used to have three friends that I was that close to. I lost them all between the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2005. I’ve been looking for that kind of connection and trust ever since. So far, I haven’t found it.

  4. Oh, and as for the shoe being on the other foot, I would very much like to think of myself as someone who could be turned to like that, yes. But I can’t remember the last time anyone has tried to really put me to the test and asked for help.

  5. I see what you mean now. Sorry to hear about losing those kinds of friends you could turn to at those odd hours. I know what you mean about feeling guilty or crossing a line with the people who are friends but not that kind of friend; I know none of the people I’ve met the last five years here in Chicago could really fill that role for me. I guess I am lucky to have those friends I do; most of them have been in my life at least 10 years, and most more than 20. I think the few I could turn to at those odd hours do have the “right type of life experience or perspective” but that could be a function of my friends and me being older than you and your boyfriend. Have faith – those kinds of friends will come.

  6. just a comment on friends for dillywren, i had friends in a previous life (pre marriage), and then made new friends post marriage.(25 years later)..those that I made post are the type that I can call on anytime of day and discuss anything with..sure they stated as online friends, but those friendships have taught me how to be a friend in real life..

  7. Thanks for the response, Cheryl. I kind of expect the blog host to respond to comments I write; when someone else puts their 2 cents in, it’s always a pleasure.

  8. And I welcome Cheryl and anyone else making this more than just my voice, since everyone has a different perspective on these issues; and Dillywren, thanks for your ongoing contributions. Still waiting for the URL for your blog, so I can add it to my blogroll!

  9. http://dillywren.wordpress.com

  10. Thank you!

  11. I think this is a nice post.

    If you need some tips and informations about Parkinson’s disease, please visit my blog: http://parkinsons-disease-tips.blogspot.com

    Thank you

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