I want to talk about my friend, Andre.
Most people have a friend like him. I hope you do too.
You know, the friends you may not see for a long time, but who carries no blame. When you do meet up, it’s just like old times. You trust each other and will always be there for one another. Over our 16 years away, we had been in contact less and less often. Yet, there was no falling out and only good intentions.
So when, a few years back, we were still happy and settled in Sydney, Andre wrote to say he was getting married. The date is set for summertime in a small Spanish countryside town – idyllic. His fiancee was organising everything.
A trip to Ireland is not on the horizon for us, so we decline. But as time goes on and the date got closer, I cannot imagine not being there on the big day. It’s 2007 and Anne-Marie is pregnant with our first daughter, Ava. We take the trip to Ireland first. We let Aisling know we can make it to Spain who kindly makes a couple of seats available in the Spanish ‘pensione’ where the reception will take place. Andre doesn’t know yet as we want to surprise him. Most of the wedding guests spend a few days together in Malaga and arrive together by bus. Annemarie and I hide out in the pensione, keen as I am to surprise Andre.
As he recalls it, he is nervous on the morning of his wedding. He ducks out for a walk and smoke with a friend. He stands at a crossroad in the town as I stealthily approach doorway by doorway. As I appear, he folds over, taken by emotion. I’m sure that was building but we wrap one another in a hug. Andre is a tall bearded warm rug of a man and it’s a beautiful moment that Anne-Marie captures.
The decision to travel was a wise one.
Ten years later and we’re approaching our second Christmas home. The honeymoon is well and truly over. The novelty of our return has worn off. Everyone is getting on with their lives. I’m working in the city and cycling every day – rain, hail or shine. The routine is wearing thin – grinding me down.
Andre calls and we chat casually. I’m probably complaining and being impatient. Maybe I’m not doing the work I dreamed about, I’m not as settled as I thought I would be. Life is not perfect but it’s mostly good. Andre is steady as a rock, as always, with a gift of wisdom he might not even be aware of.
“Don’t worry. You are where you’re meant to be. Everything is OK.”
I feel immediately calmer – probably for two reasons. Firstly, I said it aloud – how I felt. Often that’s enough. Secondly, it’s good to know someone else can relate to, and support, you. The funny thing is that, before that moment, if someone had asked me how I was, I would have brushed it aside and said ‘I’m grand’, as we Irish tend to do. I didn’t think things were too bad – and they weren’t. But I was low in spirit or motivation. I was struggling a little. So just having an Andre who picked up the phone to chat regularly in good times and bad was important. Sometimes you don’t know when you need help until it comes out.
If you have an Andre – maybe you even have more than one – in your inner circle then make sure you nurture that relationship – wherever you are. I don’t have a large number of friends. But the small number who support me and love me no matter what is plenty. Now, thanks to emigrating, I have friends in each country. The price we pay is missing loved ones terribly no matter where we live. But it’s a price worth paying.
If you have an Andre, pick up the phone now – or drop a Whatsapp and check-in. Then make it a habit. You never know when you will need them. But I guarantee that you will need them at some stage.
And they will need you.