There are times when you realise that it's time to start a new chapter in your life, and my friend Karen reached that place recently. She's decided to move away - just 8 miles down the road, but I'm finding it hard to accept that after 24 years of having her just across the road, she won't be there any more.
Karen and I met via our daughters back in about 1987. We met at the swings where our girls were having fun going back and forth and we were standing beside them, gently keeping the momentum going. Got chatting, turned out we lived in the same road. The girls grew up together, went to the same primary school, then the same secondary school, then kept in touch even though they went to different universities. Karen and I both had second children, one year apart. She comforted me through the sudden death of my dad, and supported me through losing my mum after her brief battle with cancer. I cried with her when she returned from holiday one year to discover her dad had died while she was away. I babysat her youngest while she sat with her elder daughter in hospital when a second bout of chicken pox was wrongly diagnosed as meningitis. I had her elder daughter come to stay when the younger was rushed into hospital with appendicitis and Karen's husband was away on business. She sat me down with common sense if ever I had a stupid worry and a way of always seeing the best in bad situations.
Our husbands became friends and we were part of school quiz teams, and murder mystery parties, we even went on holiday together 6 times. To see her suffer through being told by her husband that he had found someone else and was leaving after 17 years of marriage was so painful and we shared many boxes of tissues, and a few bottles of wine while we tried to find some sense in it all. I hope that she found comfort in my support to build a new life on her own, and knowing that if she needed someone to talk to I was at the end of a phone and only 2 minutes away if I ran. I've laughed with her at disasterous attempts at speed dating, internet dating, and blind dates and taken pleasure in knowing that 2 years ago she found someone who treats her with the love and respect she deserves. She was determined to keep her girls' lives running exactly the same and saw them through school and university, managing somehow to finance the same family home with little to no financial support from her ex. But the girls are all grown up now and both living away from home and that four bedroomed detached house is a little large for one lovely lady on her own, it needs a family to live there.
So last night she gathered her friends and neighbours together and threw one last party before she leaves for pastures new. And I have to say I'm finding it hard. My common sense tells me she is probably only 15 minutes away by car but I love knowing she is close. I know if I rang in an emergency she would be on her way round to help by the time I had put down the phone. So much of my memories of our kids growing up include her and we have had so much fun and laughter in that house. And I know it's only right and sensible for her to move and my reasons for wanting her to stay are selfish ones, but boy I'm going to miss her.