Thursday, July 22, 2004

Who I Am (and who I'm not)

“A friend loveth at all times….”
~ Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)

If I live to be a hundred
And never see the seven wonders
That'll be alright
If I don't make it to the big leagues
If I never win a Grammy
I'm gonna be just fine
'Cause I know exactly who I am

I am Rosemary's granddaughter
The spitting image of my father
And when the day is done
My momma's still my biggest fan
Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy
But I've got friends that love me
And they know just where I stand
It's all a part of me
And that's who I am

Lyrics to “Who I Am” ~ performed by Jessica Andrews

“This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

~ Shakespeare-Hamlet

Over the years, I have often contemplated the meaning of friendship and wondered whether I fit the criteria of what a good friend is or should be, in the traditional sense of the word. My sister’s article mentioned that I can go into a store and come out with a friend, and that’s true. I have made many new friends simply by striking up a conversation. It’s just that I wouldn’t want to have them all over for supper!

Webster defines a friend as “…one attached to another by affection or esteem; one that is not hostile.” In that regard, I guess I might qualify. I have many friends, both near and far, who are very dear to my heart. Yet, while most friends get together for lunch or coffee and talk on the phone regularly, for me it’s more of the exception, rather than the rule.

The problem is that I am an intensely private person, and that quality is not exactly conducive to meaningful, interactive relationships. Although I thoroughly enjoy visiting with people when I’m out and about and I love communicating through my writing, I am fiercely protective of my privacy when I’m at home. My home is a sacred haven of rest for me and my family.

I feel pretty certain that this is a source of disappointment many people in my life whom I consider to be a friend, but I just hope that they can accept me the way I am – idiosyncrasies and all.

I have had the same best friend since I was fifteen years old and I am privileged to have married my best friend and raise four sons with him. Keen has been my soul mate and confidante through all the changing seasons of our life. Consequently, if we have any free time at all in the midst of his hectic school schedule, we guard it jealousy and prefer to spend it together or with our family. To some people, that seems selfish. But I don’t think anyone should try to tell another person how to spend their free time – any more than they should tell them how to spend their money.

One Friend
performed by Dan Seals

I always thought you were the best
I guess I always will
I always felt that we were blessed
and I feel that way still
Sometimes we took the hard road
but we always saw it through
If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you

Sometimes the world was on our side
sometimes it wasn't fair
Sometimes it gave a helping hand
sometimes we didn't care
'Cause when we were together
it made the dream come true
If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you

Last month I took a day trip to the town of Barnes with two of my fellow writer friends, Dorothy Masters and Barbara Lerma, and we had lunch at a wonderful little café called Our Daily Bread. It is owned by Kayleen Drebes, another woman I became acquainted with after reading her poetry in the Topeka paper. Two of Dorothy’s friends, Tom Parker and Walt and LeNore Stumpf, joined us at the restaurant and we all enjoyed some delicious food, great conversation and a whole lot of laughter.

LeNore is a talented writer who has written several books. Tom is also a gifted writer who now shares his column with me via e-mail. His latest work was a heartwarming piece about his wife of thirty years, Lori. In that column, he included the following quote which seemed to tie in perfectly with my theme this week.

“This is the greatest gift: to know that someone sees you as you are and loves you anyway.”
~ Andrew Hudgins, in his prose poem “After the Lost War

That is my hope – that those who I have been blessed to call friend, can see me as I am and love me anyway – despite the fact that I may not be as accessible as they would like.

I try to use my column as a vehicle to stay in touch with the people I care about and keep them up to date on the happenings of our life because otherwise it would be nearly impossible for me to communicate individually with everyone. And if I weren’t a bit of a loner, I wouldn’t have the time to reflect on my life and share those “reflections” with others.

Here’s a short poem I wrote a few weeks ago in an attempt to capture my feelings.

Who I Am
By Eileen Umbehr

I may not meet the expectations
Of everyone in my life
I may not win a big award
For best mother, friend or wife

But all I can do
Is what I can
And all I can be
Is who I am

So although you may not understand
Why I live my life as I do
Please try to accept me for who I am
And I will do the same for you


I’d like to close with a poem titled “The Family Friend” written by Angie Forshee from Ozawkie. When I called to tell her how much I enjoyed her poem in the Kansas Plus section of The Topeka Capital-Journal, we talked as if we’d known each other our entire lives.

The Family Friend
By Angie Forshee

My mom introduced him
when I was just a kid
I knew of him,
but I didn’t know what he did.

I wanted to get to know him better,
this old family friend
I wanted so bad to call him,
but I didn’t know how or when

The years went by and we lost touch,
like old friends seem to do
But sometimes I would think of him,
when I was feeling blue

I started a life for myself
and wondered where and how he was
But never did I contact him,
there was always that excuse – because

I’m all grown up
and have a child of my own
I was ready for that step
So I invited him into my home

It took a while to contact him
because I didn’t know where to start
I felt we’d been separated for so long
and spent so many years apart

But after I made the call, I knew
he’d been there from the start
For you see, he was always
right there in my heart

I introduced him to my son
and now we visit him home once a week
I knew my life wasn’t complete
and he was the missing link

He’ll always be a part of Evan’s life
and the rest of mine
Now I know I didn’t have to make the call,
God was with me all the time.

Blessings to you, my friends ~

P.S. The reason this came out early is because I'm getting a new computer and I have to give up my old one so that they can transfer all my information over to the new machine. After that, we'll be heading to Minnesota for a family reunion, so this will be my last column for a couple of weeks. I thank you for allowing me to express myself through this column, and I thank you all for your encouraging feedback. I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks. God bless ~ Eileen