Friday, January 4, 2013

Thanks, my friend! (January 4)

Twenty-five years ago I was invited along on a family trip to Florida by a group of wonderful people who aren't my family of origin. My ticket was meant for a then son-in-law-to-be, and I was more than happy to take his place. Living in the Midwest makes a person jump at the chance to visit the Sunshine State in December. Of course, it was the first December in forever that had a frozen orange crop there, but I digress.

Seriously, who would take someone outside of their own children on an expensive family vacation like that? My friend, Lori, and I had know each other since middle school, so her family eventually became kind of an extension of my family. Her mother, Esther, and Lori treated me like one of their own and took me along.

Esther became a friend and supporting mentor to me. She was there for me when I moved to a bigger city in my 20's. She lived in one of the suburbs and offered her home as my second home during those years. It was different becoming a friend of my friend's mom, but in this case it was a good kind of different.

We had several similarities in our backgrounds, chief among them dealing with fatal illness in family members and surviving alcoholic households. Esther gave me a positive perspective on reaching the other side of those situations, coming out on the winning end of otherwise very trying circumstances. She helped me learn that "normal" is only the setting on a clothes dryer, and it's okay to be who you are where you're at in life as long as you learn from it and grow.

Esther gave me opportunities to do things I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do as a poor college student. She took me to dinners, plays and to see other strong women like Marianne Williamson and Mary Tyler Moore. Those were experiences I would have never been imagine otherwise. Esther also provided great emotional support and her companionship when I was at a lonelier time in my life.

A mentor is someone who will help you no matter how many times you call and bug them. Esther took my call at work regardless of how many times she was asked to help with one or another car issue of mine. She did so for several other young women than me, too. I was at many family birthday celebrations with mine being near her son's and granddaughter's. They didn't have to invite me, but they did.

Sometime later, Lori and Esther drove an incredibly long way to be at my wedding, and they were ecstatic at the birth of my son and lavished us with gifts. They are crazy about their own families and inclusive of sharing that joy. There's no end to the helping hand Esther extends to any one of us when needed.

She's a great mother, grandmother, and friend. Esther is intelligent, has a great sense of humor and fun, is strong in her faith, and bends over backward to help others. I miss not seeing and talking to her. There are so many people who don't have the luck I've had to know and learn from someone like her, and for that I say thank you!

I want to extend this weekly tribute and encourage other women to take a minute to tell a friend how much you appreciate her. She deserves to hear it!

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