Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making Room AKA My Big Susan Got Engaged

The phone call came when I was asleep – just like in the movies.  I had been sleeping for more than an hour. When I saw her name on the phone I knew – either someone died or…“The One just proposed!” I could hear her smile. I sputtered my true congratulations with a sleep-laden voice. I could tell she kept looking at her finger (uh, BFFs for 25 years means I can tell you many, many things about her and I have here and here and here.) In year that had barely started and already felt like a lifetime, this was welcome and joyous news. And then she said it, she said those words I knew were coming, “He’s right here. Do you want to talk to him?” Of course I did – he’s a great guy and he’s landed the best of the best. I wanted to wish him congrats and let him know how thrilled and excited I was for both of them. I also wanted to threaten him within an inch of his life if he ever hurt her.

It was a short call. They were away for the weekend and she needed to tell someone immediately. I am so lucky it was me. I hung up with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart. But I won’t lie – those tears were more than just joy.

My Big Susan was getting married. They’ve been together for 2-1/2 years so it’s hardly a surprise. The drift had started and I had already been feeling that odd kind of fracture that happens when one person within the friendship has someone so amazingly special in their life that their go-to person changes a bit. We live in different states so there have always been others but we always knew, day or night, who to call for those big talks….or to discuss what the hell was whats-her-name wearing to the Oscars and “oh my God, can that [insert politician’s name] pull their head out of their ass moments. I knew during these last 36 months that I wasn’t the first to hear her fears, joys and worries – but I knew they were being heard and it was as it should be. There is great comfort in that.

I did not meet him until last Spring. I was the last of the friends to do so. They came to visit for a long weekend. Major kudos to him for his willingness to a.) stay in a strangers home, with a cat (he’s allergic) and a 12-year old with a healthy dose of snark, b) knowingly visit when there is a major horse show and one whole day will be spent in a dusty, smelly venue, which if it’s not your thing is a bit like watching paint dry and c.) know that as the oldest friend and likely the most sarcastic, he could be walking into the proverbial lion’s den. I thought of what my sister told a boyfriend who came for dinner long ago, “Just don’t talk to my sister. She’ll rip you a new asshole.” I don’t say that with pride at all and thankfully, I’ve learned to control my tongue over the years. It’s the look on my face that can be equally telling.

These last few months have been full of wedding plans, wedding dress shopping via text pictures (there were stunners, some weird boobs and a jaw-dropping final choice), the email confirming the date. I’ve listened to bands online, looked at venue pictures, and florist websites. Thank God for the internet.

We’ve also gone weeks without talking – a first for us. The One has moved in and it’s taken some time to adjust to man things….and kid things. The One has three little darlings and Neiman has a whole new maternal role (have to admit – so much of this makes me laugh!!). It’s a life change – a wonderful, amazing, but still challenging, life change. For those of us are parents and came to the role with infants who roared, we all had our own ways of adjusting, but we called the parenting shots. For Neiman, she has had to gracefully step into the role of step-parent. An often thankless role that is easily full of all of the guts and little of the glory (I say this as a stepchild who was blessed with an amazing step-parent and one a bit more challenging.) I know her head is reeling and she is overwhelmed-- I hear what she does not say.

So, this weekend, she is coming to visit. Just Neiman. The One is staying home and Mini-me is off at camp and it will truly be a girls’ weekend. There will be a spa, shopping and no doubt, wine and whine. There will be talking, laughter and sharing. I know it will be like it always is. I have no doubt that we will slip into the familiar roles of best friends.

I have much to learn here. I have friends who married long time partners – partners that I have known for years and years so there is an established relationship even if I remain closer to one than the other. I have married friends where I met both people at the same time and we’re all good friends. I have old friends who I have reconnected with on Facebook and never met their spouse – but we live far apart so there is no opportunity to really develop those partner relationships.  And, I have friends who have or had spouses who well….the less said, the better. This is a new one. I don’t expect that he and I will become the kind of friends who communicate or connect away from Neiman, but I wonder—will our relationship grow into any kind of friendship? Does it have to?

I know when I got pregnant (she was my second call after the first disastrous one) and became a mother – she was there and promised to be there no matter what. She has held, changed, worried (likely been annoyed), laughed and loved my Mini-Me. She supported me no matter whacky-ass parenting decision I was making at any given time. She embraced this new part of my life with a kind of grace that is uniquely Neiman. But I know that this fundamental change in my life changed our friendship. There have been moments of grief – and guilt – that I have not been as present or available for things. Her gracious understanding means more than she will ever know.

I know friendships change over time. Life happens and creates bumps – those ups and downs remind us what and who matters. I want to believe – no, I do believe –that this is just a new chapter in the story of our friendship. It’s just my turn to return that unquestionable love and support, that shoulder and that ear, that gracious (fuck, have I ever been gracious?) understanding in that safe place called friendship. After all, if my mother and the original Big Susan could get through their entire lives with nary a bump, this should be nothing.

Just as Neiman has to learn to navigate her new life, I know that I have to learn to adjust to the shadow that is The One – always there even when he is not.  And, I’m certain he will adjust to the role that only a bestie can fill. He’s a good man – a lucky man. I like him a lot. I love that he makes Neiman’s heart so full. But I will still fucking shiv him if he hurts her. Best friends are like that.