I have a neighbor named Susan. She is neither Desperate nor a Housewife. I met her briefly when we moved into our house during the summer of 2007 – then a short time later Ben was diagnosed. Needless to say I didn’t see much of her thereafter, as our life was thrown into complete and utter chaos. Ben never knew her. Nor she Ben. There simply wasn’t time.
Fast forward three years. Ben is gone. And Ryan is very much living. In fact, he would prefer to live at Susan’s house with her boys. Susan and her family have been an unexpected surprise on the other side of Ben’s life here. She is my first friend who didn’t know him. At first that was strange for me. How could I interact with anyone who didn’t know him? What would we talk about? And how could we possibly become friends?
As it turns out, you can be friends when you are brave. Susan is the one being brave. It would be easy for her to not answer the door, to avoid seeing us through the window, to pretend she didn’t hear Ryan’s feet running in her front yard. But not only has she not ignored him, quite the opposite – she has engaged us all – including Ben – with her compassion and generosity. While some people are afraid of us and wouldn’t utter his name out of their own fears, Susan asks. She asks about Ben, she is interested in learning about our life with him. During the first year of his absence when I would see her she would usually ask, “How are you today?” In asking, she knew she might get anything for an answer. Yet she asked. And so strangely, I answered – and thus began our friendship.
We are privileged to have their family as neighbors. She has yet to ask me for an egg, or anything from my kitchen – as she knows I probably won’t have one. But it has been fun for all of us to get to know her talented and sweet boys. And she is getting to know mine – both of them. So we can be friends. Because as it turns out, you didn’t need to live in the same time and space to get to know someone. You just have to be interested, kind and brave. Like Susan.