One of the blessings I have enjoyed over the years is a wealth of friends. Having spent six decades on this old planet, having lived in nearly a dozen communities in those six decades and having traveled all of Iowa for six years, I have friends across the state, throughout the nation and even a few in other parts of the world.
Over the years, my wife, too, has been blessed with many friends. Wherever we have lived she has made friends quickly.
I pondered on these things recently when one of my wife's best friends spent a weekend with us.
My wife, Cindy, and Linda met in the mid '70s at our church in Sioux City. They had children about the same age - Linda one and Cindy two. They both loved cross stitching. And they thought alike on matters. Many matters.
Initially I thought Linda was a little snooty. When I found my wife visiting with her new friends in the early months I enthusiastically greeted them only to receive a weak response.
I told Cindy her friends were snooty. No, she explained, they are not snooty. They are intimidated by this large, loud character that they don't know and who behaves as though he knows everyone. Oh! That was plausible.
The next Sunday I toned down my demeanor and volume. After a few weeks I discovered that my wife's new friends were nice gals. A good lesson learned.
That original group spent a lot of time together. They got together every Monday morning to stitch, visit and enjoy lunch together. Their children became playmates.
After a while I caught on to their agenda. If my wife was cranky when I got home on Monday evening it was because one of her friends was upset with her husband. I suppose her friends' husbands knew when I was in the doghouse, too.
I began calling their Monday morning meetings "Stitch and Bitch" sessions. The women did not embrace the title.
More than 35 years later, Linda is the only one of that original group that remains close to Cindy. In the more than 23 years since we left Sioux City, Cindy and Linda continue to visit each other at least once a year, often more frequently. They email on a regular basis and speak on the phone as well. They continue to exchange birthday gifts.
When Linda's marriage ended, Cindy grieved with her. When Linda's infant grandson was diagnosed with cancer, we prayed for him and the entire family. (Praise God, he is a healthy 8-year-old today.) When Linda's father died, Cindy mourned with her.
Linda has shared Cindy's joys and sorrows as well.
I tease that Linda is the only woman I have dated since Cindy and I were married. During a chaotic time in my career several years ago I spent some time back in Sioux City while Cindy remained in Ankeny. I complained that sitting in a motel room every night was agonizingly boring. Cindy suggested I take Linda out to dinner some evening.
"Wait a minute," I said. "You're telling me it's okay to take your good looking single friend out to dinner?"
She assured me it was okay. She wasn't concerned - she trusted Linda more than she trusted me. Linda and I had dinner at a fast food restaurant and a pleasant conversation. End of story. But I still brag about it!
When Linda visited recently, she and Cindy began visiting as though they had seen each other just a week ago. They went shopping and we went out to eat. Linda went to church with us on Sunday. But most of the time they simply sat in our living room, stitching and visiting enjoying their time together as only good and old friends can do.
We were all 20-somethings when we met. We are all now 60-somethings. In spite of so many changes over the years, Cindy and Linda's friendship has remained strong.
"The most beautiful discovery true friends make," wrote Elisabeth Foley, "is that they can grow separately without growing apart." My wife and her friend, Linda, agree.