With a little help from my friends…

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published December 1, 1993 in The Suburban Life, added December 14, 2016.


You’ve all heard, over and over, the cliché, “You’re never too old to learn.”

I’m here to tell you it’s true.  Since crushing some vertebrae in my spine several weeks ago, I’ve learned many things.  It occurs to me that I can do a great public service by passing along to you what I’ve learned, so that you, too, can possess these great truths without breaking your backs to gain them.

The No. 1 truth I’ve learned:  If you weigh 90 pounds, stay away from garage doors.  And never lift anything heavier than a book or a pen.

I’ve also learned I can bear pain and survive tough times.  But I don’t do it gracefully.  I know there are artists without arms who paint masterpieces with their toes.  But I doubt if I’ll ever cheerfully rise out of adversity and write my novel by typing with a pencil held between my teeth.

I’ve learned some great truths about friends and friendship too.

Friends have always been important to me.  I’ve always felt that friends are more to be desired than riches, and that the end of my life, if I’ve still “shuffle off this mortal coil” as a rich person indeed.

Now, after several weeks of pain and forced inactivity, I don’t just feel that way anymore.  I’m absolutely certain of it.

A broken back forces you to think.  After all, it’s about all you can do.  And for the past several weeks, as I’ve stared at the walls, I’ve been thinking.  All those friendship songs from the 1960s have floated back into my memory, and they keep throbbing and pulsating through my brain – “That’s What Friends Are For,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,”  “You’ve Got a Friend,”  “Lean On Me,” “Stand By Me” – I keep hearing the words and the music.

Now, I think I really know the meaning of these songs, for I’ve been getting by with a little help from my friends.  I can tell you now what friends are for and what a friend is.

A friend is someone who’ll call 911 and get you to a hospital and who’ll then sit in the emergency room listening to you moan till a doctor gets to you a couple of hours later.  Louise did that.

When I came home from the hospital almost a week later, Louise also organized a food pool with three of her merry cohorts –Lisa, Fran, and Gus – to bring my meals.  Gus would show up on his designated days looking like Little Red Riding Hood.  He’d have my dinner in a picnic basket, complete to hot, buttered garlic bread.  The four of them kept me fed for the first 10 days I was home.

I’m using first names only to keep my friends anonymous.  After all, they are my friends, and I don’t want you to go out and break your backs in hopes that my friends will take care of you.

Lee raked my leaves, mowed my yard, brought me apples, and cleaned the gutters on my house.

Iona brings my morning newspaper to me every morning, usually with a treat of cookies, rolls or nutbread.

Lisa gets my afternoon newspaper, fills my bird feeders, and does practically everything else.  She keeps me supplied with snacks and food, rakes my yard, and is here in a flash whenever I need anything.

John left yellow chrysanthemums and a note on my porch.

Bill and Ellen keep my supplied with my favorite glazed doughnuts.  Alice and Doris also brought food.

In addition to lots of wonderful fruit, Louise M. supplied me with books, magazines, and crossword puzzle books.

Ann is my library link and has volunteered to take me for my first walk when I’m able to hit the streets again.  She also brings me food, like homemade chili and an apple she brought all the way from Michigan.

I’m a bit hazy about events on my first day home from the hospital, so I don’t know if Louise or Lisa started the bag on my door.  One of them put a bag on my front door, so that people could leave things there for me, since it was almost impossible for me to answer the doorbell or to ben to pick up anything.

The bag is till a wonderful innovation.  I find all sorts of goodies there, and even Adrien Pharmacy leaves their deliveries there.  It’s like Santa Claus comes every day.

And then there’s my friend, Dianna, the one with the spirit of a pixie and an imagination as wide as Texas.  She’s my morale officer, who drops by every day, and leaves something in the bag.  She makes me brown bag lunches, decorated with funny pictures and containing star-shaped sandwiches.  In the bag, I’ve found from her a basket of tiny, live plants, Halloween goodies, and a pumpkin pin.  When she heard me wish for Christmas hoping that by then, I’d be almost recuperated, she started making Christmas come faster.  Since then, I’ve found in the bag an Advent calendar, a crazy reindeer she made from a candy cane.  And the list goes on.  Her best gifts of all are her notes and her zany ideas.

Madeira has often been called the “friendly town,” and I have learned that it merits the title.  Every day the mail is an event, bringing cards, notes, and letters from friends and readers of this column.  They stack up, easing my spirit, and all of them will be answered.

But all the support has not come from Madeira.  As the news of my accident rippled out, letters and messages have come in from everywhere.  I have learned that I have more friends than I realized, from all over.

So, I have learned that if you have friends, you can get by with their help, when life gets rough.  I’ve been doing it for weeks now, and it’s great to have them to lean on.  And I’ve learned that real friends don’t ask if there’s anything they can do.  They just go ahead and do.

Now, aren’t you happy that I broke my back and discovered these great truths for you?  So that you won’t have to break your own backs to learn them for yourselves?