My Beautiful Struggle + [story]

When there's not a title for her

You have your family. And you have your friends. Sometimes, those friends become such a part of your life, they become family.

Jeanne was a permanent fixture before I even arrived in this world. Her and Don were BFF with 2 of my uncles & aunts before deciding to make my parents the target of their affections. We've spent nearly as many vacations with them as without them and their presence fills my childhood memories.

I'm guessing this is 1998. Raise your hands, people who know me, if you first thought I was my sister. I find it unfair that when I tell people of my sadness, I'm stuck with words like "friend of the family" or "my parents' best friend." I've found often in this world adults lack relationships with the depth and consistency I experienced from the circle of my parents' friends. Now that I am an adult and have experienced friendship outside a school yard and dorm room, I can say what Jeanne (and Don, and the rest of "the friends") was to us cannot be equated to the occasional dinners or chatting with someone at the end of the school day or church service that others title "friends".

When I didn't know where my parents were (way back before cell phones) I would call their house. If we needed a cup of sugar (or, more accurately, a cup of tequila), we could stop by uninvited. We rode bikes to their house, spent countless 4th of July's in their backyard and scorching summer days in their pond. I'm nearly positive they didn't miss a single basketball game of my high school career and Erica had graduated after my freshman season.

If I had to draw a picture with my memories it would be set on Lake Cumberland. Actually, it's this one.

We spent our days boating around, taking turns on the skis (and by "we" I mean "they" because I kept content with a book in the front of the boat). On the hot days we would jump in to cool off between skiers and on the chilly mornings we would bundle in sweats and towels and still go out because it was smooth as glass. I once went to Cumberland with the Young family without my own family. Because, why not?

The year that the kids bought Don a blender for the boat made it even more exciting. We drank margaritas and went to the dock. Don bought a ski jacket for my sister (and then charged it to my dad), so Jeanne felt justified taking an ice cream sandwich. On the way home we got the air guitar show as presented. It was a good day, wrapped up - no doubt - by a game of Hell or "the board game."

These kind of memories don't just "happen." They grow from years and years of presence, in the dull and mundane and in the thick of stress and drama. They're planted in memories of playing cards, eating Mexican food and waiting to hear Amy in the Morning announce that school is cancelled the next day. They're grown in discussions of The Young & The Restless and meaningless chatter around high school basketball.

When church people begin talking about "fellowship" and "community" (which is really just the newest word for fellowship), what they're wanting is relationship that looks like that of my parents and their friends. They need someone to take a day of "Jeanne sitting" when Don is in the field. They seek the kind of friends who send me a birthday card every year, without fail. They're wanting people you call up on short notice and say, "we're going to Pizza Hut, want to join us?" just because the night is better with friends.

I don't feel like we've lost a "good friend." I feel like a part of my childhood family, who happened to live in a different house, has left us. I mourn her presence, her smile, her dry and deadpan sense of humor. I will miss her calling me Shelly-Elly.

Most of all, I'm grateful for the example she set before me as it pertains to friendships. I know, through her, what it looks like to present, to be faithful.