Everyone deserves a person to rely on as a best friend

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Everybody should have at least one best friend. You can have several, if you want. There's no limit on best friendship.

But if you can find and make and keep at least one, consider yourself blessed.

I thought of that yesterday as I waved goodbye after spending almost six hours with Linda.

It was her birthday. Actually, it was a day late, but that was the soonest we could get together. With best friends, you celebrate whenever you can, not just according to the calendar.

I'd been traveling, gone more than not, for several months. We had been in touch by email, but email is never the same as talking face to face, and heart to heart, especially when your heart is broken.

While I was away, Linda lost her mom. She was 80-some years old, but forever young at heart, and they had been best friends forever. This would be Linda's first birthday without the one person who had loved her unconditionally, come what may, every day of her life.

I wanted to give her a really good gift, the one I always want most from people I love: time.

So we started with a two-hour lunch, followed by a two-hour movie, followed by a post-movie debriefing for two hours more.

It worked like this: We spent the first two hours catching up over lunch. With best friends, there's always plenty to catch up on, especially after three months, or even three days, apart. We talked fast and barely made a dent in it.

Then we went to see "August: Osage County." It stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and one of my all-time favorite actors, Chris Cooper, in one of my all-time favorite roles. But all things considered, it might not have been the best choice for a birthday celebration.

Briefly, I'll say this: It's no comedy. It's the story of a family not so different from mine or maybe yours, dealing with a father's suicide, a mother's cancer and drug addiction, and the problems of their three grievously afflicted daughters.

We loved it. Linda kept handing me Kleenex. Unlike me, she's the kind of best friend who comes prepared for the worst.

Afterward, we had planned to go home our separate ways, but we decided we needed more time. So we went back to the place we'd had lunch and settled in for a couple of more hours.

We talked about families -- the one in the film and those of our own; what our lives were like growing up; how we tried to raise our children; and the kind of roles we want to play in their lives now that they're grown.

We talked about growing old and laughed to admit that while we often pray for the strength to age gracefully, some days all we really want is a facelift.

That's a best friend for you. You can tell her almost anything and she'll say you're not crazy, because she feels the same way.

Basically, we talked about everything and nothing; listened closely to each other, to all we said and didn't say; and solved, if not all the problems of the world, at least a few of our own.

Then we parted with a promise to get together again soon. That's what best friends do.

I've been blessed with a wealth of best friends, some I've kept for much of my life (Martha, Maribeth, Suzi, Shari) and some I've lost along the way, but not one that I ever truly deserved.

If you ask them, they'll tell you. I don't keep in touch the way I should. I hate to talk on the phone. I often forget to return messages. I even forget their birthdays. In fact, I might have missed Linda's, if my husband hadn't spotted it on the calendar and reminded me.

But lucky for me, and maybe for you, the best thing about a best friend is this: You don't need to be deserving.

Best friendship is like grace -- a gift, free and clear. And every day is your birthday.


Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).

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