Don’t Dessert Old Friends

We’re all so busy, it’s really easy to ignore friends who need a little extra “TLC”, and I was guilty.

I met Betty in college and continued to see and love her throughout our lives, eventually adding our husbands and children to our warm circle of friendship. She was the smartest, wittiest and most fun-loving girl I ever knew, and there were so many parallels in our lives until recently, that we enjoyed being together. Her marriage was a fine one, to a man equally intelligent, and together they traveled the world and were successful in their careers while rearing two remarkable children.

But when her husband died six years ago, Betty underwent a drastic change, becoming abnormally anxious and depressed. It became worse with each year and she stopped driving, going anywhere, or calling anyone. I noticed she became forgetful, more terrified of everything, including losing hr keys or medications, so she carried them with her in a huge purse, that must have weighed 30 pounds, everywhere she went. She also began using a four- pronged cane, though no doctor ever suggested it, “Because I’m terrified of falling.”

She became terrified of everything, and it was too much for me to watch. I stopped calling, and she never did. Last week I realized she hadn’t called me, and I missed talking to her. When I called she was lying on the loveseat in her kitchen trying to watch a program on a new TV set she hasn’t learned to operate. I felt ashamed when I heard the happiness in her voice when she heard mine. Excitedly she agreed to meet for lunch and we made arrangements for me to pick her up.

I walked through her unlocked door (“Oh, I kept forgetting my keys so I stopped ever locking the door,” she said, showing no concern for the fact that she lives alone in a small ranch house in a town where most people lock their doors AND install burglar alarms.

The house was in as much distress as Betty was, with unopened mail strewn across the couch and overflowing onto the living room carpet. The kitchen sink and table were covered with dishes and, and blankets, books and DVD tapes crowded her on the loveseat.

She hadn’t been to the beauty salon in weeks, she said, and this formerly fastidious Fashionista was wearing a long sleeve velour brown sweater and dark brown polyester pants with pills all over them on a day registering 9 0 degree heat. To stop her dismay over the condition of her once beautifully coiffed hair, I suggested she put on a hat and she did as we trooped out to my car. Now she was using two four-pronged canes and still hadn’t ever fallen.

We had lunch and for two hours she was her old self, retelling funny anecdotes of our years gone by together.

But then I took her home with a heavy heart.

I’m sure her children have tried to intervene but Betty is a very stubborn woman who will smile and agree, then do as she likes. I’m debating about how much intervention I can provide too.

I won’t dessert her again. I am keeping close and will try to encourage her children to bring in professionals to help.

What are YOU doing for old friends in this situation? It’s happening to so many.