Sunday, 3 May 2009

Alison Is My Friend.

Friendship is very important to me. I value it over and above any love relationship. Any good love relationship is firmly rooted in friendship, anyway. Women have a certain closeness in friendship. Life can be hard when you grow up female - you don't always get the same breaks a man does. You don't always get the same opportunities to take control and do as you please. It's an old saw, but it's true. It is a different world for women. So we look after each other. Women friends support each other; love each other; watch out for each other. Friends are important to us.

For me, my friendships have always been far more satisfying than any previous love relationship. I suppose the expectations are different. I am certainly more honest with my friends. They know if I am angry or fed up. My friends see the warty bits more clearly than any love interest is likely to. Certainly in the past. Ask any woman. I bet she tells you the same.

Alison is my friend. She was working in the Cash Office when I came back from America. We hadn't known each other before, but the Cash Office is a locked environment and you get to know your co-workers swiftly! We were the same sort of age. We were both women who had worked hard to be happy and found previous relationships and situations less than satisfying. We were both discovering the joys of our 40s. I liked Alison as soon as I met her. We got on. She was kind to me, too. When I had nothing - having returned to the UK with two suitcases - she gave me extra bedding so that I wouldn't freeze to death in my unheated flat. She knew I had nothing, that I was struggling, and she stepped up and made a difference. That was her nature.

Alison had been through a marriage out of which she had gained three wonderful sons. The marriage was over and Alison had found a new love, having braved the dirty underbelly of second time round dating. She had met some perfectly pleasant men, one or two useless men and one who had left her flat when she needed him the most. She then met Barry. Her Prince. One of those rare men who really understand and value a woman. He adored Alison. Alison was happy.

The 'left her flat' man was priceless. A couple of years ago, soon after she met him, Alison was diagnosed with breast cancer. She thought hard about what she would need from him in order to stay strong and fight for her life. She told him that she understood this was an impossibly hard situation for him, and if he felt he could not cope with it, could not support and love her through the battle to come, she would rather not have to cope with losing him while she was unwell. He should think about whether or not he could deal with this and make a decision. She understood. It might be something he could not face and she needed to focus on getting well. He stayed. He told her he loved her and he stayed with her. And six weeks later, while she was undergoing treatment to prevent her death, he left her. There are words for men like that and none of them are polite! But Alison survived. It was one of the things I first loved about Alison. She was a survivor!

Alison died last week.

The breast cancer returned two years after she beat it off and this time it spread. Barry has been the most wonderful strength and comfort through this battle. I hardly know the man but I love him for making Alison so happy and for being her rock while she fought again. Nothing has been a problem. She needed help at home? Fine - Barry was there. She needed to hear how well she was doing and have goals to live for? Fine - Barry told her and planned adventures to aim for. She needed to be lifted to the comode and be cleaned up when she couldn't make it? Fine - Barry could easily get up and do that without making her feel like a burden. He has been wonderful. I wish it had been enough to make her live.

I miss her. I'm so angry that she had found love, found happiness, only to have her body reject her chances to enjoy it into her old age. I'm furious that she had to suffer so much. I can think of a thousand people who would have been less of a loss to the world than Alison. I don't want her to be gone.

Today I am meeting an old friend I haven't seen for 15 years. She's driving up and we are going to drink wine and laugh a lot. I am going to tell her that I have a funeral to go to on Tuesday. I am going to tell her how much I've missed her this last decade and a half. I don't want to be angry, at some point in the future, because I missed the opportunity to let her know how important she has been, and is, to me. I didn't tell Alison. I assumed she knew it. And now I can't. She's gone.

Alison is my friend. And I miss her.

1 comment:

  1. Very Sad. I know how hard it is to loose a very good friend who happened to be the love of my life. On the second time around dating thing: My wife actually pointed me in the direction of a friend some months before she died, should the worst ever happen. Neither of us knew her sudden death would come so soon after. The friend has just come through breast cancer and that was like another hammer blow. Both my friend and I understand now more than ever that every moment in life in precious. Could I fall for my friend like my wife suggested? Hell yeah.

    Live life to it's full, never leave anything unsaid. Time is shorter than we all think!

    Dave x