May 21, 2021

STAGES OF A FRIENDSHIP

Over the years, it seems that friendships move into different stages.  Some people seem to maintain friendships from childhood all through their lives, but the pattern in my experience has definitely been more like varying stages with friendships.

In this first photo, I’m standing on the beach at Jekyll Island with my friend Anne.  We met at the hospital where we both went to work after getting divorces—she was head of the Physical Therapy Department, I of the Medical Records Department.  She had two sons—I had a son and daughter—and we both were struggling to adjust to our sudden change in status.  We began to share our life stories, to plan outings together with our children, and that summer, we rented a cottage at Jekyll Island together.  We had many things in common—but there were also many differences.  Anne was very energetic and physically fit—she would wear ankle weights as she went about her work at the hospital.  Me, not so much.  She’d grown up in Georgia as the only girl with three or more brothers.  She’d gotten her physical therapy training in the Navy—and she often used profanity. We’d both had a beloved brother die several years before. She was raising her sons as Catholics (their father’s preference), I was moving to the Presbyterian church with my children.  Our faith was what kept us going.

Stage 2 photo.  In the next stage of our friendship, Anne had married J (on the left) and they were living in Greenville, South Carolina.  She continued to work but now enjoyed a comfortable home and financial security.  She and her sons had joined J’s Episcopal church.  He surprised her with a lovely December birthday brunch at a Greenville restaurant.  Alice (back row) and Phyllis (front right with her husband Jim) had worked with Anne at the Hospital.  By this time, I was Director of Public Relations and had built a new home.  It seemed that we both had found more stability and happiness.  

Stage 3 photo.  This photo was at my last Christmas party in Columbia in 2001. Here I’m talking with Earleen and Anne.  She and J had built a huge new home in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, her sons were doing well and both were married.  J was continuing his insurance business.  I was already working in Nashville and a year later, I would have sold this home, bought my home in Nashville, and Patrick and Julia would be married. So many life changes—and they seemed to be moving in a very positive direction.  

I don’t have a Stage 4 photo—but there were significant changes.  When Sam and Eli were about 4, their family began attending a small Anglican church in Asheville—and Anne and J were leaders there!  They commuted from their home.  It was a joy to have Anne know my twin grandsons and she showered them with love.  They had suffered severe financial losses during the past few years—and were desperately trying to sell their large home.  Yet she continued to be the strong and generous person I’d always known.  Now there is little communication.  She wrote me during the pandemic outlining still more heartaches and reversals for them. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We are still friends.

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