The family you choose

friendsI once had a brush with death.

Some sore patches on my leg emerged a few weeks after a surgery. Ignoring them until I was limping. I headed to my doc, who assured me, “no big deal”. Phew.

2 days later , out on a run I realized I couldn’t breath. My leg was throbbing and I suddenly remember a former friend who dropped dead while running due to a blood clot. I walked the rest of the way and headed to the doctor. 3 hours later I was told my weird sore patches had actually been signals of a 3 ft long blood clot that reached from my ankle up through my groin and up towards my heart. 1 hour later I  learned I had a pulmonary embolism (PE) in my lungs;

“But the BEST PE you could get” according to my hematologist.

Not really thinking about what this meant, I headed off on a date.

Only later, when telling friends, did I realize how lucky I was. How my bike fitness had probably helped break up the PE in my lungs.. and how ‘heading off on a date’ wasn’t probably the best response to a fairly major medical emergency.

That’s what your support network, aka your friends and friends of friends, are there for when you’re single. To remind you not to be a half-wit. To point out the sometimes obvious. To make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

Married folk have husbands who do that (or other moms who nurture everyone).  They kill the spiders, know when you’re sick and support you no matter what.

Singletons, well we have friends for this (or we do it ourselves in the case of those terrifying spiders). These friends become our chosen family. They’re the ones who we lean on when we’re feeling down, who support us, and who help us out in a crisis. They’ll listen to your wittering, and hand you a drink or a bar of chocolate when you need it. Family is family and while your biological family might be awesome, for many of us it’s not practical to ask them to pick you up from the hospital when they live 4,000 miles away.

I love my chosen family. They consist of my riding gals, current and former work colleagues, friends or friends, Facebook friends, old neighbors, school mates and the random people you meet as part of your everyday routine.

This week I lost one of my chosen family. The guy who calmed me down with whiskey after a slippery motorcycle ride. Waited with me for first dates. Raised his eyebrows at some of them. But who always, always had a smile and a ‘what’s up?’ for me as neighbor patron. I spent my last night in Denver at his bar, and many evenings collecting my thoughts and shooting the shit over a nightcap.

It’s the first time I’ve lost someone who propped me up. Who was there, Who provided a meeting place for other singletons and people seeking a chosen family. The oddballs, the tattoo and motorcycle nut cases, the Denver homegrown, those who loved a rockabilly band on a Saturday night. Or just to sit at a bar and chit-chat about nothing.

Today I’ve never felt more protective and appreciative of those who remain. To lean on, to reach out to, to care if they don’t hear from you, and who remind you of whats important. The surprising loss, and even more surprising impact on my heart, is a good reminder of the importance of our chosen family.

To my chosen family, much love.

RIP Gary Lee Bomar.

 

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