I’m finally ready to introduce you to John, the final piece of my hat trick of friends. (And he is a hockey fan so finally, the hat trick title actually fits.)
When I told John I was going to write about him, he asked, “You aren’t using my real name, are you?” He was half kidding. And if I asked him why he asked that, he would probably say, “Because I don’t want people to know that I’m nice to you” or some other smart ass response. Again, he would probably be only half kidding. Let me tell you a little about John. He is a kind, caring family man. He loves music and sports. He’s funny. He is amazing with kids- especially teenagers- especially MY kids as teenagers. He is especially good with pain in the ass Italian redheads. He is reserved and can sometimes appear to be gruff and intimidating because he doesn’t smile a lot. This is the face he presents to the world. The John I know is very different and I know he would prefer that I just keep that to myself.
I have known John for 10 years. I met him through my children, same as Steph and Diane. The main difference between him and them is that three years ago we were not close friends. We had a friendship that was evolving and growing slowly over the years. That changed when I told him about Kris.
In those early Kris days, I was quite a mess. My head was in a fog. I was upset and confused. I really couldn’t talk to anyone. I saw John a lot during that time before he knew about Kris. The thing I remember most is that he was so concerned. He didn’t know what was going on, only that I was upset about Kerri. At that point he had known Kerri for 7 years and had just spent the last 4 years working with her. Although I just couldn’t talk about it, he was always there- this presence- very stable and very much there. He consistently offered me support, kindness, words of encouragement and he had no clue what was wrong.
When the time came for me to tell him, I remember that he listened intently and got very still not saying a word. As you can guess, telling someone that my middle child was a son and not a daughter caused me just a little bit (!!!) of anxiety. I remember him reaching out and holding my hand. He was steady, calm and caring. He asked me to please remember to take care of myself while I was busy worrying about everyone else. Then he hugged me and it was that hug- that solid, reassuring feeling that he gave me that put my feet back on the ground. I wasn’t going to shatter into a million little pieces. Not with John around.
He always treated (and to this day treats) Kris the same as he did when he dealt with him as a girl. And I have to add that he is one of very few who always asked how Michael and Andrew were dealing with things. He has been a part of all of my kids’ lives for 10 years now- sometimes less, sometimes more- but one who has remained consistently himself during a time when most of the people we know are acting different in some way- whether it’s uneasiness with things or an overcompensation showing just how really cool they are with it all- really they are!!!
He has been solid and steady throughout a tumultuous time in my life. Unlike most (all) men I know, when I burst into tears, he didn’t budge. And that happened often. And quite unexpectedly. He didn’t look away, or walk away, or stumble. (Maybe he was afraid to move.) When I called him from Florida in hysterics because I didn’t think I could leave an anxiety-ridden Kris behind, he talked me down. When I swore at him on the phone (using the F-word for the first time) and hanging up on him, he didn’t hold it against me when I saw him minutes later. He is the voice of reason when I need it. He has grounded me when I feel like I’m going to fly apart. He is one of the few people I know who can joke me out of a slump and he is the ONLY person who can make me laugh at myself.
I’ve tried to tell him many times what this means to me and he just waves me away with a literal wave of the hand and a gruff “Yeah, I know. You’re welcome. And you’re still a pain in the ass.”
So, there they are. The ones who helped me make it through. Maybe these people don’t seem like anything special to you. But they are. They didn’t flinch when they found out about Kris. It didn’t even occur to them to be anything other than what they are- awesome friends. They have gone above and beyond the line of friendship and taken on family roles too when needed. They all have their own spouses, kids, families, problems and yet they made time for me and mine at a time when we really needed it. And they still do.
I don’t know if I will ever be able to give them back a portion of what they have given me and continue to give me every day. I can’t begin to express what their presence in my life means to me. I owe them so much more than words can say. And I can already hear John saying, “You’re damn right you owe me.”
Yes, my friend, I know. Love ya, too.