Friend or Family

November 17, 2010
By dylanstanek BRONZE, Saint Paul Park, Minnesota
dylanstanek BRONZE, Saint Paul Park, Minnesota
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

There are few relationships that we form as children that we will carry throughout our rough and tumbled childhood and into the seriousness of our adult lives. It might be one of your parent’s friend’s child, a neighbor who was always around, or someone you went to church with every Sunday. I consider myself as lucky as a lottery winner to have a special friend. I met him when he moved into Saint Paul Park and joined Mrs. Packard’s already overly full Fourth grade class. This was not just another new student, he was funny, yet smart, comical, yet he had a serious side, his name was Cody. While it was great to have Cody what I did not realize when I was a young naïve fourth grader was when I started to play video games, text, skateboard or ride our shiny metallic new bikes to the park was that I was not only getting a buddy to talk about girls with, I was getting a second family, The Tillmann’s.

As Cody and I’s friendship grew I quickly formed a relationship with his family. It was so different than my life growing up. I was the youngest, Cody the oldest. My parent’s spent time away from home, while Cody’s parents were at home each evening. I entered this family existing on a diet of Ramen noodles, Mac and Cheese, Chicken Strips and French Fries, sometimes hot, sometimes cold. Cody’s family ate meals, at a table with chairs, not in front of the TV or at a bar with stools. Not to say my family was bad, not at all, just completely and utterly opposite. While Bethany’s house was fun and you almost always left with a full stomach there were certain expectations she had for all that played, they had to help keep the house cleaned up. I always thought of their home as the ready to show model of the neighborhood. Anyone could waltz in at any given time and it looked like a spread from Better Homes and Garden magazine from my Grandmother’s nightstand. A stay at the Tillmann’s was work as well as play.

It was on a cold but sunny sleep-in kind of Saturday in the last week of February. One of those kinds of days that we have in Minnesota where summer is a long ago memory you are not sure you remember and spring seems as far away as an island oasis. I had just woken up. I had a stiff neck from no pillow and a sore back from laying half on half off the family room couch, which long ago needed to be replaced. As a rolled off the couch I landed on a half full bag of stale yet edible nacho cheese Doritos. “CRUNCH”, I tried to clear the sleepy scummy sludge from my eyes as I looked over to the other couch to see that I had awakened my cohort in crime, Connor. Another friend, that drifts towards Cody’s house on occasion. He said sleepily, “Shut up Dylan. Can’t you see I’m trying to get my beauty sleep over here?” As quite as an elephant in a daycare center, I got up off the Doritos bag. I gingerly stood up, grabbed the lusciously soft chocolate brown blanket I used the night before, folded it up crooked, like any good teenage boy would, and put it nicely behind the couch.
Even though it was early I reluctantly trudged up the stairs expecting Bethany to be in her furry flannel pajamas waiting with a chores list as evil as the devil himself. As I was nearing the top of the never-ending stairs I still had a glimmer of hope. The lights were as dark as a coal; I happily squealed to myself “Thank God she is not up yet!” I scurried as quickly as a mouse to the pantry to find a savory box of cereal that wasn’t as empty as a black hole. As I am searching I heard someone quietly trying to sneak up on me. I spun around to I see Connor trying to act like a spy from a James Bond movie with his air soft pistol pointed at my head. I ducked under the island, in the middle of the newly polished kitchen floor, and slid all the way on the reflective dark wood landing near the dining table. I hear a “WHOOSH” by the side of my ear and see a little ruby red ball glisten and bounce off a wall then softly land on the floor. He quickly fires off another shot as I duck to my left and watch it roll to the other side of the table. When I stood up I angrily ask, “What was that for?” He replied, satisfied “Just wanted to see if I could hit that big empty shell you call a head.” As I am standing up he shoots another pellet at my bare flesh of my leg, this shot misses also and bounces off out of sight. As we decided to call a temporary truce I heard the slow eerie creak of Bethany’s bedroom door opening. I peeked around the corner to see her walking down the hall with her rat’s nest of hair. We all know, once she is awake it is time for work before fun, especially on Saturdays.
It was not too often that Connor joined us, Cody and me, for a sleepover. So, this time I was thinking as hard as I could for a way to have a few more minutes of fun. As we started to pick up from the night before I intentionally dodged her requests for help. She’d say left and I would go right. She requested I go upstairs and I would hide downstairs. As I was close to getting on her last nerve she asked me, “Dylan, will you go empty the cat’s litter box and while you are at it run a broom around it so we are not tracking cat poop all over the basement.” I replied, “Okay.” I hung my head and walked slowly away to my fate. After finishing what was asked of me instead of returning to the group of drones, following her orders, I looked out the garage door to see a fresh layer of white glistening snow had just fallen earlier that morning and Tyler bringing over dog poop to hesitantly throw it in the small bundle of trees still in contact. I excitedly galloped over to him and ask “Tyler, do you want to go running through the snow?” He scarily replied “Wouldn’t Beth get mad at us for not finishing our chores.” I confidently interject “No, She said our chores are finished so we can go do what we want.” He decides to go with me. So, we are just messed around on the dirt hills throwing snowballs at each other when Madison, Cody’s little sister, came outside and said franticly “Dylan, get inside now. My Mom wants to talk to you!” She said it the only way a little sister could, with sass yet style. As I nervously walked to the front door of the house I thought to myself, “What is she going to do to me?” I kept replaying that thought in the back of my mind. I knew I had left my post. I knew I had left my job undone. I knew that I had played but when it was time for the fun to end and the work to clean up to begin I also knew I fell short.
The instant I walked through that door Bethany screamed at the top of her lungs “Where the hell did you go?” She was hot, tired and definitely disappointed in me and she let me have it. I quietly replied “At the dirt hills I was…..” She cut me off, stared me down coldly and said “I guess I don’t care what your answer is, just go home.” I just shrugged my shoulders, rolled my eyes and walked up stairs to grab the broom to sweep around the cat box. There was no patience left in her, I was not the only one at fault. I guess I was not expecting it when she screamed at me with her face beet red “Give me the broom and get the hell out of my face, you disrespectful child!” I stood there in total and udder disbelief on not only at what she said but how she said it to me, a child that was not even her own. I ran out of the house with my eyes swelling up with tears. It was a long and dramatic walk home. Thoughts ran rampant through my mind like wild horses through the plains. What had just happened?

I believe at the start of this experience that I was a little naïve, inconsiderate, and incoherent. I didn’t really care what others wanted, but more of what I wanted to make me happy and satisfied. After it helped me see that Bethany had thought of me as her own rather than just a friend because if it was any other kid or friend for matter, she would have just shrugged it off, maybe not have cared or quietly asked them to run along home. Since it was me it got me to realize that she had the same expectations for me as her own children and she cared about me. I believe this experience opened my eyes to our relationship and her expectations of me, as well as her own children. I wouldn’t have known the way her and her family felt towards me. I have a family that cares about me that gave birth to me and I also have a family that even though they are not my not my birth parents or siblings by blood our binds run deeper than friendship. I believe that they will be there to help me out, offer support, in good time or bad time. I believe that this experience showed me that they will love me even if I mess up and don’t follow through with my chores. If it wasn’t for this experience that opened my eyes and heart to the reality of this love I believe I I wouldn’t be as close to their family as I am today, I have gotten so close to them that I can go to them about anything and they will understand it and they understand me. I personally am glad this quarrel between Bethany and I happened because if it didn’t who knows where I would be right now.

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