I have always been somewhat of an introvert and I have never had a large group of female friends. As a child, I was shy and hyperactive meaning that I talked too much to the few people I was comfortable with and annoyed them. In high school I kept myself busy with cross country, track and my job at Shop ‘N Save and my circle of friends was pretty small. I carried a similar pattern in college where I went to track and cross country practice and I did not attend many parties. During most of my 20’s, I immersed myself into politics where I socialized but in a highly structured manner. I always felt awkward in conversations and politics gave me a reason to talk to people and contact to discuss with them. Despite my shyness, I made a few friends during my political years as well as an amazing boyfriend.
In 2009, I moved to Albany after a year of long distance dating and I left behind a few close friends in Maine. For years after the move, I tagged along with Bryon to social events but I felt that our circle of friends were really just Bryon’s friends and that his friends barely noticed me. I was very lonely but over time I began to grow friendships with the girlfriends of Bryon’s friends and some of Bryon’s female friends from college. Over time I started having the occasional dinner and movie nights with the girlfriend/wife of Bryon’s best friend and a friend of Bryon’s from college. She would “babysit” Bryon and the guys in college. She deserves to be elevated to sainthood here on Earth.
Over the years we met up to show off our engagement rings and squeal with excitement. We poured over wedding planning magazines and got together to watch Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings. There have been bridal showers, bachelorette parties and weddings. Then came the baby showers, christenings, play dates and little kid birthday parties. I enjoyed the celebrations, double dates, brunches and occasional girls nights out. But you don’t realize how strong your friendships are until crisis hits.
You quickly learn who your friends are when you are told your husband might not survive. They are the ones who drop whatever they are doing and rush to the hospital and sit with you. They immediately step in to take care of your daughter and tend to your very basic needs because you forget about things like basic hygiene and eating when your husband is close to dying. These are the people who bring you food to make sure you eat and bring you endless iced coffees to sustain you. Usually when people say you learn who your friends are, it implies that they had fewer friends than they thought but in my case I found out I had many more friends than I ever could have imagined. I never knew how much they meant to me.
Bryon’s death has brought all of us closer. Not just to me but to each other. Life gets busy but we all make a point in checking in with each other more. It’s been a year of highs and lows. In addition to Bryon’s death, there have been new jobs, babies, new houses, engagements as well as divorces, breakups and illnesses. There have been job promotions, new jobs and job frustrations. There have been vacations and birthdays. We have all been there to support each other no matter what curve balls are thrown at us. It is so peaceful to be with friends who are there to listen to each other and offer support. We are the family that we created.
I look forward to spending the future with you. I look forward to more babies (just not from me!), engagements, weddings, new jobs and vacations. I know we will be there for each other for whatever lows there might be. For those of us with kids, I look forward to birthday parties, play dates and if I have the privilege to live long enough to see our kids grow up, I hope to attend recitals, concerts, and various games and other sports competitions and I hope to celebrate graduations, birthdays and another cycle of weddings and babies.
If Bryon were still alive, we’d all still be friends but we wouldn’t be as close. There would still be the highs and lows and Bryon would be helping us through them. We all know that he is still helping us through them in his own way now. And I like to think that our strengthened friendships are in some way, a gift from Bryon. He can’t be there for us anymore, but he gave us each other.