When it comes to true friendship between two people, many of us don’t know what that means.
When we call someone our BFF, what does that really mean? Is it just something people say when they hang out once in a while? Or is it something else entirely?
Let me tell you what I think: This time of the year, I always think of my mom. We didn’t have the closest relationship while I was growing up, but there are those moments, those memories, that make me smile.
For whatever reason, at this time of the year, I think of her friendship with her BFF, Steve. Yes, a man, and if you knew them, they couldn’t have been more different. For all her inner scars, mom carried herself like a proud black woman, and Steve was a short pudgy guy who could devour a plate of chicken in one sitting. And yet, they were thick as thieves.
They met at the hospital where mom worked. She was a nurse, and he was a nighttime janitorial supervisor. He was polite, always saying hi and making small talk. My mom was coming out of an abusive relationship with my step-dad so, naturally, her guard was always up. All that changed when one night my stepfather attacked her at the hospital, and Steve defended her.
They became friends and even started dating for a while. It didn’t work out for whatever reason (I never asked why). You’d think that would be it, but it wasn’t.
They remained friends, and for the next 30 years, they were inexplicably a huge part of each other’s lives—through good and bad, thick and thin.
Sometimes, after work on a Friday night, Steve would come over to my mom’s, and they’d sit, talk, drink and watch movies, and then Steve would go home. Of course, I used to think the reason nothing happened between them was because I was around. But it was never about that. They bought each other gifts, went to the movies, blah, blah, blah.
I didn’t get it. “Friendship my ass,” I thought. But then I noticed that when times got tough, they were there for each other. Sickness, bad marriages (Steve had two), my mom’s diabetes, cancer scares. They could talk for hours.
Finally, I got it. Friendship is about being there, loving each other unconditionally, supporting each other—through good and bad.
I learned from them that unless you have all that, “best friend” or “BFF,” whatever you want to call it, is just a couple of words. Steve became ill just as I became editor of Spare Change News. My Mom said it was stomach cancer. At six months in, the chemo wasn’t working. Steve stopped the treatments and went home.
For the next year, every single day before and after work, my mother went to his house to take care of him until he passed. My mom missed him terribly. I’ve always envied their friendship. We should all be so lucky to have a friendship like that. God bless them. I miss them both. Merry Christmas.
James Shearer is co-founder of Spare Change News.