Growing to Care

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Each pounding step sends shockwaves up my body. My breathing is labored, but controlled. Inhale for two steps, exhale for two steps. Repeat. Midway through my run, my body has begun to complain. Amidst a sea of thoughts fighting for my attention, a sound breaks through. My phone is ringing.

Without breaking stride, I swipe my thumb to answer the phone call. “Hey, who is this?” I ask, neglecting to check caller id. “Hey girl, it’s me.” The voice was garbled, but recognizable. “Hey Delaney. Inhale. What’s up? Exhale.” In the same broken tone, her request is simple: “Can you come over?”

I quickly realized the unclear voice was not a result of bad connection. Delaney’s characteristically chipper voice was cracking with emotion. Initially confused, I suddenly remembered that six weeks prior, Delaney’s father was diagnosed with stage four Melanoma. I stopped in my tracks. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

I rushed through the front door of the all-too-familiar household. All eyes looked to me as I entered the living room. To my surprise, the room seemed to let out a sigh of relief as I stepped through the doorway. Had they been waiting for me? As I glanced around the space, my eyes skimmed over familiar faces – Jonathan, Laura, Jackson, Emily – until I found Delaney. Her face was pale, her eyes bloodshot. Heaving sobs wracked her body as she sat in her father’s favorite leather recliner.

Jonathan took a step forward, grabbing my wrist and explaining exactly what had happened. Delaney’s father had passed while she was home taking care of the dogs. Her mother, older brother, and older sister were all still at the hospital. My heart was breaking for my long-time friend, and for her family which treated me like nothing less than a second daughter. Nodding my head at Jonathan, I took a step around him and placed myself next to Delaney on the oversized chair. I took her into my arms, attempting to calm the increasing sobs. Smoothing her hair, I began to speak.

At seventeen years old, I had never considered myself particularly eloquent or insightful. I knew my friends joked that I was “the mom” of the group; that I gave the best advice and that I always knew how to fix what was wrong. Being the mom of the group, however, had never been as serious a role as this. I had helped our friends reconcile over petty arguments, aided the broken-hearted, and even rescued a friend or two after they forgot the importance of having gas in a car. I have learned that the severity of a situation does not matter to my friends as much as the fact that I am always there to help. When my friends need someone, I am the one who makes things okay.

As I sat holding my broken friend, saying everything that I knew she needed to hear, I was taken aback. “Is that me talking? Are those my words?” I thought to myself. What a peculiar thing it is to speak without recognizing your own voice. My words came with an eloquence developed over years of advice, backed with the validity of someone who understood what Delaney was feeling. Guiding Delaney through that day, I realized that I am more than just “the mom” for my friends. I am the advice-giver, the heartache-healer. I bake cupcakes on bad days and bring movies on bad nights. I may not be the oldest friend, but they see me as the wisest. Guiding Delaney that day showed me what others have seen in me for a long while. I am not a little girl who trips over her words and shies away from conflict, but a young woman who has learned to speak with the certainty granted only through experience.

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