What Would I Do Without You?
What Would I Do Without You?
By Judy Pugh
Franklin D. Roosevelt is quoted as saying: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” And I have found that when facing challenges in our lives, it’s nice to know that you have true friends who will not only throw you the rope, but help you tie the knot.
The one thing that we—as women—need is a solid support group. And sometimes you can stumble upon these magnificent people during the most unusual time in your life, in the most unforeseen places. I found mine right on the street where I’ve lived for the past 15 years.
When I first learned that my husband had been unfaithful, I was—to put it mildly—devastated. I thought that nothing or no one in the world could comfort me and make me feel whole again. Who was I if I wasn’t someone’s wife … his wife? All I could do was wonder how I was ever going to make it through this unimaginable situation.
Sure, I had friends; but then come to think of it, they were our friends, not my friends. What would happen to those relationships? Could I even speak with them about what he had done to me? Would they take sides? Too quickly I learned the answers to my questions. They enjoyed being friends with us, but not just me. And coincidentally, not just him. When that realization hit me, I was bombarded with a whole new set of questions.
It’s a sad but true fact that many times when you are divorced by your spouse, you end up being divorced by your friends as well. Neither you nor your husband can apply for “custody” of the friends that were made as a result of your union. But how and why can someone you shared intimate feelings, vacations, the birth of your grandchildren, heartbreaks and laughter with suddenly disappear from your life?
I believe their “disappearing act” is the result of a number of issues:
- They might be afraid that divorce is contagious. Maybe their union isn’t as solid as they try to make others believe. Maybe my friends were afraid their husbands would get cheating lessons from mine.
- Even though you’ve never given them any reason, they may feel like you’re going to try to take their husband. Married women often times see single women as a threat, so they choose not to keep them close.
- They just don’t know what to say to you. Similar to when someone dies, what do you say to their loved ones? “I’m so sorry” just doesn’t seem like enough.
- They feel like they already have enough going on in their busy lives to take the time to comfort a friend, no matter how close they were. This one probably hurts the most.
So as the invitations, phone calls and emails went from occasional to nonexistent, part of me was saddened by the loss, yet another part was angered by the perceived betrayal. I had been dumped by my husband and my friends, and I struggled to decide which bothered me more.
But sometimes, life takes your lemons and showers you with lemonade. My lemonade was Melanie Benson and her whole nutty, fabulous family. (Keep in mind here that I had lived on our street—in 3 different houses—for close to 15 years; she had lived there for about 8.)
During that time, my husband and I had only spoken to Mel and her husband Doug one time, when they stopped by the day we moved into our third house. They stopped by to share a glass of wine and welcome us to the neighborhood. They didn’t even know that we had been on the street longer than they had!
When the “For Sale” sign went up in our front yard, Melanie stopped me on the street to ask why we were moving. When learning of our impending divorce, her concern was immediate and pure. And since that moment, that concern and friendship has never faltered.
Virtually overnight, we became the closest of friends, having grown from a simple nod or wave “hello” when passing each other on the street to sharing everything, including our families. Little did we know how this friendship would be tested.
A few months later, word came that my daughter and her husband were both being sent to war and I was to become sole caregiver to my 2-year old grandson. I guess it wasn’t enough that I was suddenly a single grandmother, trying to hold on to my home and changing careers; I needed a toddler to care for when I wasn’t even sure I could care for myself!
Sensing my struggle, Melanie and her whole family pitched in to ease my burden. They babysat my grandson, included us in their family outings and treated us, basically, like one of their own. But my “test” wasn’t over yet. A few months later I was struck with a rare condition known as radial nerve palsy which paralyzed my right arm. God never gives us more than we can handle?
Enter Melanie and her family, once again. At times, when I was so frustrated and thought I couldn’t go on, they would intervene and take my grandson out for pizza to give me some quiet time. They never knew it, but whenever they would take Marcus to dinner or the park or anywhere to give me some rest, I would break down in tears the moment they left.
Tears of frustration overwhelmed me, and tears of relief that these amazing people had come into my life comforted me. Whatever you want to call it, there were tears, and lots of them. Some were tears brought on by sheer and utter exhaustion (both physical and mental) and others by pure, unadulterated gratitude.
Sometimes I was so exhausted that Mel and Sophie gave my grandson a bath, then put both him and me to bed, because I had fallen asleep on the couch or the living room floor. One day when I had to work and Marcus’ daycare was closed, I asked Mel’s daughter Sophie to babysit for him for the entire day. Sometime during the afternoon, Marcus received a call from his daddy in Iraq. Most times, this made him very happy; this time, it did not. For some reason, when Marcus finished talking to his daddy, he had what only can be called a meltdown.
When he hung up the phone, he began to cry hysterically. He could not be comforted. Sophie has “a way” with Marcus and if she couldn’t calm him down, something was really bothering him. Well, she got so distraught at how hard he was crying and the fact that nothing she did could comfort him, that she began crying too.
After a few minutes (that probably seemed like an eternity to her) she became so upset that she called her mom. They live just a few doors down, so Mel immediately came over and attempted to comfort Marcus and her daughter. She eventually did, but when I came home, everyone was in tears, including me because I was so touched by their caring.
I literally discovered a secret vault filled with friends I never knew existed. Neighbors, who I had barely spoken to previously, became my best and most trusted friends. Acquaintances became—and remain—close friends. Friendships were forged in every area of my life and unfortunately, somewhere along the way, some bonds were fractured as well.
Great FriendsI am still amazed at the lengths they went to in their support of me when I needed it most, with a shoulder to cry on, a companion to laugh with, people who in my deepest, darkest hour saw and felt my depression and did anything and everything they could to bring me out of it.
And I’m not talking about the “friends” who said “If you need anything, someone to watch Marcus when you need a break, I’m here for you.” Most of them, I’m sure, were silently hoping I wouldn’t ever take them up on their offer. I’m referring to the true friends who will endure a Saturday afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese’s to help you out … who never treat you as a third (or fifth) wheel … who will help you to find the strength that can somehow get buried during hard times.
If you’re feeling alone, venture out; you might just find your lemonade stand right down the street.
"A friend is like a good bra: hard to find, comfortable, supportive, always lifts you up, makes you look better, never lets you down or leaves you hanging, and always close to your heart." ~Author: Unknown
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About the Author
Judy Pugh is a freelance writer and author of a nonfiction book entitled: "Reporting For Doodie: One Grandmother's Story of Commitment, Frustration and Unwavering Love." The book has received wonderful reviews from all walks of life: the military, grandmothers, mothers and editors. She recently partnered with HomesForOurTroops.org to donate a percentage of book sales to this great organization that builds specially-designed homes for soldiers with life-altering injuries, at no cost to them.
Her story has been featured in FIRST for Women magazine and will appear in the November issue of MORE Magazine. The story of her own inspiring reinvention got her a spot on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She resides in Long Beach, CA and enjoys reading, cooking, gardening and the social scene. For more information about Judy, or to purchase her book, please visit: www.ReportingForDoodie.com.