THANK YOU FOR
BEING A FRIEND
13 February 2003
The clouds were dark and ominous and Doppler radar showed a lot of green. The freezing
weather of last week was passing and the air was warmer--and wetter. Cindy and I managed
to make it on our 8 mile ride without hitting moisture, but now it was daytime and it had
started to rain.
Walt was going to the symphony in San Francisco tonight, so he had taken the car to
work and I was faced with the decision: ride my bike in the rain, or hope
that David's old '73 Toyota would start and get me to the office?
I wrestled with the decision throughout the morning, while I watched the rain come and
go, wondering if it was going to get heavier. If I took the bike while the rain stopped
and it started pouring, how would I get home? If I managed to get the car started and get
to the office, what would happen if I couldn't get it started when I ended my work day?
Years ago, before we moved to Davis, when the kids were little, we lived in Oakland and
were very fortunate that all of our college friends lived nearby. I was also involved in
La Leche League and a parent nursery school. We always had people to call when we needed
someone to call on in a crisis. I can't count the number of times when Char and I filled
in for each other with the kids. The weird things we did. (Like stuffing two 6-foot
Christmas trees and ourselves inside a teeny MG!)
We had a real sense of community and you just never worried about things like rain and
temperamental cars. If I took the car and it broke down, I had people I could call without
thinking about it. If I rode my bike and got caught in a downpour, there was someone who
would come and rescue me, just like I'd do for them if the tables were reversed. (of
course I wasn't riding bikes in those years--but you get the idea.)
I wasn't exactly excited about moving out of the Bay Area and away from our friends,
but the perk, I felt, would be that we were moving to a small town and I envisioned that
"small town thang..." -- block parties, dropping in for coffee with the
neighbors, our kids growing up together, the whole "Leave it to Beaver" thing.
Well. Not exactly. One thing we learned about Davis
is that it's a wonderful town to meet people; it was a difficult town to make close
friendships. By the end of the second year or so, I knew lots and lots of people and had
no friends. No real friends, that is. Not the sort that I left behind. I decided that it
was because, being a university town, it had a fluid population and people relocated so
frequently that they didn't make close friendships the way we had in the Bay Area.
But I got used to it. I knew everybody at the kids' schools, I knew everybody in Girl
Scouts, in 4-H, in La Leche League (which I founded here). It was OK that there was nobody
to "bond" with, to share secrets with, to pal around with. It was even
marginally OK when we became neighborhood pariahs and people around us gave us The
Shunning. (Still not quite sure what that was about--it's better now, but we still only
have nodding acquaintances with a couple of people and everyone else acts as if we don't
It was a sad day when Paul and I were home alone and the water heater started making
funny noises--Walt was out of town at the time--and I realized that I couldn't think of a
single person in the whole town to call to talk to about the water heater and whether or
not it was likely to explode.
Things were better when I went back to work. My social life centered around the women I
worked with. I made wonderful friendships and finally had the same kind of symbiotic
relationship that I had in Oakland. My friend Melody and I were very close for many years
until she moved to Washington, DC. The closeness continued for a few years after the move,
but distance made it difficult and we began to go our separate ways. I missed having her
in my life.
Then I went to work for Women's Health, for which I worked for about 10 years. Again,
my social life revolved around the friendships I made in that job. I had women to hang out
with, people to call, people to socialize with. Very close with my friend Lynn, the
midwife. Lynn, who hopped on a plane in Houston the morning that Paul died and took care
of us for that awful week after his death. (Lynn, who I will fly to Houston to see again
Once again, when the job ended (by this time Lynn had moved to Texas), the
relationships changed, and I was back at square one again--a town where I knew lots of
people, but didn't feel close enough to call any of them in case of an emergency.
Mostly I don't miss it because I don't really thinkg about it. But when things
happen, like having Peggy come and visit for 6 weeks, it reminds me of how much I miss
that female companionship.
But things have changed in the past couple of years. Not only have I begun to take
charge of my life, to take charge of my health, to go back to work, to do all the things
I've done, I've also discovered that I am starting to have friends again, friends who are
not tied to the kids' school, or my job or anything else. I am beginning to have a social
life in Davis and it feels good.
So I went off to work on my bike this afternoon. As it turned out, it was only
sprinkling lightly when I rode home in the afternoon (I missed the heavy rain, which is
now falling), but had it been pouring, I would not have hesitated to call Ellen and Shelly
and would have felt comfortable asking them to come and give me a ride home.
It's a nice feeling.