Raised by a widowed father, she learned from him that there is only one word that describes true friendship.
Recently I was asked to describe what friendship meant to me. “Friend” brings to mind a collage of people for me. It’s not a happy picture. In fact it makes me angry. “Ship” brings up an instant mental image of the Titanic sinking, and that pretty much sums up my experience with friendship.
I’m to blame as well for most of the failures in maintaining a healthy attachment to others. There is however one friendship I know I did not mess up and will treasure for all eternity. My dad was always my best friend and up until the day he died and I never even knew.
I realize as I type these words that it was the best friendship there could ever be. A friendship you didn’t even know existed. Not because you were blind to it, but because it was so natural and special that it didn’t bear being brought into the light continuously. There was no need to brag about it, or expect accolades for a job well done at keeping it alive, because it just thrived.
As a young child it was like a tiny seedling pushing through the soil. Begging to be nurtured by water, light and tenderness. On both ends. I was small and without a mother and my father was newly widowed and raising a baby on his own. We both needed that nurturing and shelter from the harsh winds and driving rains and we prospered and bloomed when the sun shone down and the breezes stirred gently across life.
Through the preteen years our friendship was like a ground covering of Lantana. Hardy yet still beaten down easily by the elements. Growing ever outward; reaching for the next bit of earth and covering whatever bit of space we could find.
I was emerging from my roots and exploring new territory. My father was following behind me, covering the inches I had managed to conquer yet staying his distance as to not suffocate me. He didn’t drink all the water, only took what he needed and nothing more/ Always next to me, but his own separate plant.
Then everything morphed into a landscape of concrete, buildings, and noisy traffic and pollution. Cracked sidewalks with people hurrying by oblivious to who or what they stepped on. In the midst of all that chaos I was a rose emerging during my teenage years.
However my father continued to push through the throngs of madness and keep watering the rose. His own foliage suffered from the pounding of life, some days withering. Giving his own water and sun to me, ensuring I still had what I needed to grow.
Once my own blossoms had been trimmed, a new plant emerged. I gave birth to a son and had become a fruit bearing plant. During this transitional period in life everything in the past had fallen wayward and pooled into one big memory. I could not imagine at that time what my father must have been feeling.
Drought, floods, and intense heat alternating with cold and biting winds. It was a time of change and not just within my pot. My father’s roots were drying up. They had been my whole life, and he now was no longer able to sustain himself much less me and I became his caretaker.
I was still that young plant he had watched come through the soil so long ago even though it seemed like only yesterday. He, however, had weathered many days in the sun and needed my help now.
I gave my own water and nutrients to him. Holding on to enough to keep myself going along with trying to keep my new little bud healthy and alive. In some aspects I was still that ground covering Lantana searching for memories of my father and ways to keep him alive. Other days I was the rose again, suffering the hardships that I had once seen before, only this time I was on the other side.
I was the nurturer and the giver now, until the day my father’s time was over. I sat in his empty room in my house after the funeral home had come and taken him. I looked at the empty bed where he once had laid and felt so despondent and empty. Much like a field of nothing. Just dirt with the grittiness of death harsh upon my heart.
My father had gone and left me to take care of myself now. My own son watched from the door of the room while I just sat there. For months I had known my father would be uprooted and taken away from me and I had cried my tears already. The tears that came now were for my son.
In a sense, looking back I know those were nurturing tears. The circle of life had been completed for my father. My son was now in the chaotic concrete phase of life and I saw myself struggling forth through the crowd of elements. It is my turn to keep his spirit alive.
Most people say that a parent and child should not be friends, but I disagree with that. I think that the friendship between a child and their parent, each their own unique flower, begins from the first day that seed is planted. The difference is that it’s hidden behind the love.