My 82-year-old father, who has a hard time walking, recently took a fall stepping off a curb back in my hometown. My mother, who has her own set of health issues, was waiting for him in the car and saw it happen. She and some very kind passersby helped him to his feet, and my dad, stubborn and strong as ever, insisted he was fine and hobbled back to the car and drove them home. He did not see a doctor and now, a few weeks later, seems to be doing just fine.

But that’s not what this is about.

What this is about is how, if you’re really lucky, you can live 3000 miles from your parents, and your friends, and your hometown, and you can mention the fall your dad took to one person, and that person will not only listen to your story and empathize. That person will actually do something to help.

I’ve known her since I was 13, and she grew up ten blocks away in the same neighborhood in which my folks still live. Her own mother recently died, and her dad has been gone for many years. Her childhood home is for sale right now, and she is getting an estate sale ready to clear that house ten blocks away from my folks’ place.

She called me a couple of weeks ago, shortly after my dad’s fall, just to say hi and because she’d heard a song on the radio that reminded her of me. It was a nice surprise, and it’s always like I’ve never been gone for almost two decades when we talk. I told her about my father, and she immediately offered to bring him the walker her mother had been using before she died. My dad had mentioned a walker to me months earlier but hadn’t done anything about getting one.

I often feel paralyzed out here on the other side of the country so far from my aging parents. I want to be there to help and make their lives easier, but my life, at least for now, is here with my kids. It’s a horrible, frustrating spot to be in.

But my friend is there. And she knows what it’s like to have an aging parent. And she offered that walker, and she called up my parents, and she arranged a time to bring it over to my father, and she brought her own beautiful daughter with her, and she took it to him. She visited, and chatted, and she texted me after she left to let me know that she thought my parents were doing pretty well. She will never know how much it meant to me for her to do this.

This is what lifelong friends do. They become your eyes and ears and arms and legs when you can’t be there. They offer their help and support and love. They keep you posted. They do it with no expectation of anything in return.

They are angels that walk among us.

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