I was out with my grown daughter the other day and while I was driving I asked her to make a call for me. She scrolled through my contact list looking for a particular number and ran across the entry for herself in my phone. “Why does it say I.C.E. on the listing for my number?” she asked. I was kind of surprised she had not heard about this and explained that if anything happened to someone while they were out, the emergency personnel would take the person’s phone, scan through the numbers and try and locate a specific person to contact if there was an accident or other catastrophe. So often families don’t share the same last name these days, so they wouldn’t really know who to call unless they ran across an entry that said “Mom” or “Daddy”, or maybe ” My sweetheart”, or “Soul Mate” or some other cutsey name for a significant other. But they are trained to look for the letters I.C.E. which stands for in case of emergency. “You are my person” I told her.
Less than a week after that day, I was watching one of a billion reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.In the series, Meredith is always just short of a true love relationship with Dr. McDreamy because she suffers from abandonment issues due to an overbearing mother and alcoholic father who left when she was 5. Christina on the other hand is a robotic Oriental surgeon, excellent at her craft but not so great at warmth and emotion which constantly wreaked havoc on her relationship with her gentler, more mushy boyfriend. The scene opens with Meredith sitting forlornly at the bar and Christina walks in after making an appointment at a clinic to have a secret abortion. Her gentle boyfriend had not been able to take her distance and ended the relationship just as she had found she was pregnant. They were very new friends, and Christina had uncharacteristically shared this very intimate part of her life with Meredith the day before. Meredith really didn’t know why she had shared, but she had listened, giving no advice and asking no questions.
“The clinic has a policy”, Christina began, “They wouldn’t let me confirm my appointment unless I designated an emergency contact person…someone to be there just in case, and…to help me home…you know…after.” As Meredith turns to her, Christina briskly says “Anyway, I put your name down. That’s why I told you I’m pregnant. You’re my person.” Meredith looked at her intensely and said “I am?” “Yeah…you are.” And with that Meredith leaned over, placed her head on her shoulder and stayed there for a minute. ” You know this constitutes hugging, right?” the sterile, unemotional Christina muttered. ” Shut up, I am your person.” Meredith said, as the scene came to a close.
I have come to realize different phases in life each require a different person. It most often isn’t a spouse, or a family member. This is the one person you can talk to about anything, even the spouse and family member, and they will be right there loading the gun for your firing squad when you want to slay those who have crossed or upset you. They don’t always agree with you, but they do always support and encourage you in your own choices and decisions.
When I was in grade school, my person was A., a golden-haired shy little girl, very petite, neat and clean. We played at school, had the occasional sleepover, always sat next to each other at lunch. As time went on, we gathered other friends around us, but we always had this “thing”. Then one day, she came into school and told me she was moving when school let out the next week. I was devastated.
Over the next few years, I had other friends, some closer than others, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t have that “person”. I even got to a point where I thought I didn’t need a “person”. I really didn’t want to begin all over training another friend in how to deal with my idiosyncracies and issues. I wanted A. back, or at least I thought I did. A. was safe. She was quiet. She knew me.
One day my next “person” came along. I was friends with a girl I had been in school with in grade school, but because A. was there too I had never really bonded with her in a close way. K. became my middle school “person”. We were in and out of each others’ houses, played games, sang and danced to Donnie Osmond records and tried real make up for the first time in the bathroom at school, unknown to both our mothers, or so we thought. We went to a lot of movies during this time and I remember going to see “Ode to Billy Joe”. K. had a thing for Robbie Benson at the time, so I begged my parents to go see the PG rated movie with her and they relented. Looking back, K. was either more worldly than me, or I was naive in spite of the world marching around me, but when the movie ended I had no idea what had happened in “the scene” that caused the bridge jump. My “person” had to explain it to me…boy, talk about embarrassing, but nonetheless bonding.
When we entered high school, K. and I remained friends but we drifted for whatever reason. We each got our own groups of friends, she graduated early, and I had met my next “person”, D. She was a beautiful, brown-eyed movie queen type, and all the boys flocked to her. Because I was her friend, and she was my “person” they flocked a bit to me too, by default anyway. We had another mutual friend, A., with big bosoms, long dark hair and pancake makeup. You never saw one of us without the other and soon we were dubbed “Charlie’s Angels”. Although I spent just as much time with A. as I did with D. overall, we never had the deep heart to heart talks, or shared the quiet silences of just being together. She called me Smitty, I called her DD, and we were a team. I knew difficulties she went through at home, she knew my failings, and we still were there for each other. She was my “person”. She stood up for me in my first marriage, and was there when my baby was born. But my heart was so broken when she got married and I wasn’t asked to be in her wedding. I found out later that it was because I had gained so much weight with my baby she didn’t want me in her wedding and had told a couple of mutual friends so it would get back to me. Funny, I had only gained 18 pounds with my pregnancy…but I lost around 125 when D. stopped being my “person”.
For so many years I didn’t have a “person”. I was wrapped up in child-rearing, homeschooling, trying to be a good wife and making a home. When the marriage soured, and we finally divorced after 22 years, I realized how much having a “person” was vital to survival for me and how much I missed that contact. I met K. through a ladies’ group on the internet. We both had relationships that were pretty textbook awful. But as soon as we met in real life the first time, we knew we were each others’ “person”. It is 13 years later, and although we live many miles apart we can pick up the phone and talk anytime about anything, or nothing at all. I have a “person” at the other end of the phone standing by like Captain Kangaroo’s sidekick Mr Moose….ready to drop ping pong balls on the insufferable moron who had rained on my day or made me sad.
Lately I have been feeling maybe I need another “person”. Not instead of long distance K., but in addition to…someone in town, close by to go shopping with, or talk to face to face. Someone ready to go see a movie or concert, or sit on the back deck and sip a glass of wine with me while the sun sets. There are days when you just need somebody to be with you, put their head on your shoulder and say “I am your person”, someone flesh and bones, someone flawed and imperfect, someone fun and crazy…or someone in case of “emergency”.
But I am not in a hurry, my “person” always appears at just the right time, in just the right way, for wherever I happen to be in my meandering through life. Until then, I am happy just being my own “person”, going through life carefully and diligently….and planning no emergencies anytime soon.