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The Value of Friendship
By Marlene Pyle  

Iíve learned many things since I began taking care of my 85-year-old grandmother three years ago.  I know which supermarkets offer senior citizensí discounts on which days of the week.  I know which drugstore has the most helpful pharmacist, and which beautician will fix my grandmotherís hair just the way she likes it.  But one of the most important things Iíve learned isnít really about caring for my grandmother; itís about caring for myself.  Iíve learned the value of true friendship. 

When my grandmother moved here to Georgia from her home state of Michigan in order to be nearer to me, I knew my busy life was about to get busier and more chaotic.  I have a full-time job, two teenagers and (thankfully) a very supportive husband.  My plate was already pretty full.

I had long since given up on finding the time to do volunteer work, appeasing my pangs of guilt by donating clothing to my local battered womenís shelter and writing a yearly check to the American Cancer Society.  I quit making excuses for not getting to the gym, and finally let my membership lapse.  I made peace with the fact that my house may not be immaculate at all times, but is pretty clean most of the time.  But one thing I always made time for was my girlfriends. 

Going out to lunch with the girls was something I  looked forward to.  Our shopping trips and movie nights kept me sane.  Even if we just met at the park for a quick walk, I always felt better and more relaxed after Iíd spent time with them. 

My grandmotherís arrival changed things.  It was difficult for me to make last-minute plans with my friends, and I often had to cancel even long-standing dates if my grandmother was ill or had an appointment that couldnít be rescheduled.  I couldnít linger on the phone with my pals as often, and leaving town for more than a day or two required elaborate arrangements and planning. For the first time in my life, I found myself buying greeting cards that read ďHappy Belated Birthday.Ē Weeks or even months would go by when the only contact I had with some of my friends was a hurried email.

But there was also Paula, who sat me with me in the dingy hospital waiting room while my grandmother had surgery, and who spent an entire Saturday helping me paint my grandmotherís bedroom the perfect shade of yellow.  There is Pam, who leaves funny messages on my voice mail, even though she knows I may not get to call her back for a while, and who volunteered to take my grandmother to an appointment when I had a meeting I absolutely couldnít miss.  What would I do without them?  I donít even want to know.  As the song goes, I get by with a little help from my friends. 

My grandmotherís taught me a lot over the years.  My friends have taught me even more.

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