All through life, we have people who help us. Being social, tribal creatures, living in a complex dangerous world, most of us cannot be 100% self-sufficient. We all have lifesavers.
As a child, your lifesavers are your parental unit. Beyond the necessities of food and shelter you need things like help figuring out your homework, or making sure you get your vaccinations, or bringing your band instrument to school when you forgot it before the big try-out. As a teen, you begin to rely on your peers. Need a shoulder to cry on or someone to hang with at the mall? Need a ride to the football game? You have a circle of people who support you, and you support in return. In college, I had a husband who was also studying engineering. He helped me with statics, I helped him with chemistry. We each had a homework/study group of classmates that worked together. As a newly employed graduate, I had slightly less-new peers to help me learn my craft and answer questions I was embarrassed to ask the boss.
As young parents, we needed a different circle of lifesavers. I was fortunate to live in the same city as both sets of grandparents, as well as my aunts, so we had people close by for advice, sympathy, emergencies. My ex rarely traveled on business, so the boys always had one parent and several grandparents around. We also developed good friends at a church we attended. The friends usually had children of similar ages, or teenagers who made great babysitters or dog walkers.
When we moved for job-related reasons, we found ourselves in a place where we did not know a single person in the entire state. When the people at the after-school center asked me for an emergency contact, I was dumbfounded. How do you tell someone you don’t know ANYONE? My office was about 20 minutes from the school, and my husband was an hour away. I bought our first cell phone – one of those heavy Motorola bricks – and remember sitting in the middle of Interstate I-25 in Denver during rush hour, my new car having stopped dead with a transmission fluid leak, and trying to figure out how to call the school, my husband, a tow truck, the Jeep service shop. We only moved there a couple of weeks prior, and didn’t know how to get hold of any co-workers, nor did I know any well enough to ask them, all strangers, to pick up my sons at school. Except during college, we had always been near family.
Gradually we developed friends, and circles who could help each other. When we moved once again to another town, we had a better feel for how to integrate into a community, how to build an urban family of sorts. Everyone now had cell phones, and we found friends through work and Boy Scouts. The boys began their own cycle of making friends – their own lifesavers. We had neighborhood children who would watch our dogs when we are vacation.
It’s this last item that prompted me to write this blog. I am now an empty-nester. I live alone with my two dogs. I have nice neighbors, who are my age, or are older and retired, but I’m not close to any of them. There are no children or young teens for several blocks in every direction. I work directly with one of my best friends, and he and his family have helped me when I went on a trip without my wallet (for example). Many things, however, I have to hire. One of the most helpful people I have is my petsitter Briony.
Sounds silly, no? My dogs have access into the garage but I don’t have a doggie door into the house – it’s too rainy and muddy here, and my part-retriever pooches LOVE the rain. And one of my neighbors is a nasty psycho who gets hysterical when he hears any dogs barking (he sounds off air horns in the middle of the night, which is heard for blocks). When I travel on business, even for a day or two, I’d have to take them to the kennel the day BEFORE my trip, and sometimes couldn’t pick them up until the day after I returned. The good kennels are not very close, and many of them close at 5:30 or 6 pm, which means I’d have to leave work early.
Then I found Briony. She’s built a business doing petsitting, and has people working for her. I can go online and schedule the visits, have Jake and Ripley put inside at night, outside in the morning, left inside and checked on if it’s bad weather, fed, petted, played with, medicated, walked, and taken to the vet or groomer if needed. For extra fees, her employees will do supply runs, do a poop patrol, and even come and unlock your door if you lose your keys. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, my company is starting up a new plant as well as doing the design phase of a second plant (in western Texas and Saskatchewan, respectively), so I am gone a LOT. Occasionally, I even take a vacation!
It may seem like a trivial thing, but for a while, it was one of the biggest stresses I had, always making sure the dogs were cared for, that I had a reservation at a kennel since they fill up quickly, planning extra time into my work trips, not to mention paying one or two nights extra because my flight schedules wouldn’t cooperate. Now, I have no worries about my pets, knowing they are cared for by great people.
What, or who, are your lifesavers, outside of your closest friend/confidante/family member? Is there something, someone, that takes a chunk of stress from your life? I’m interested!