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Gary Horton: Friendships are the glue of our lives

Posted: July 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Katie sat anxiously in the salon chair this past Tuesday afternoon. We were in Seattle visiting Katie — it was our first visit to see her since she left Southern California after recuperating from a traumatic brain injury she suffered in India.

Talking on the phone and emailing back and forth is one thing. Seeing your daughter face to face two months after such a traumatic event is wholly different.

When Katie first met us at the SeaTac airport we were thrilled. Our daughter was all the way back — a life fully restored, after what easily could have been, or should have been, a life lost after being struck in the head by a motorcycle.

Four months have since passed, and her once-shaved head was a fluffy ball of unruly re-emerging hair. Time to finally get it cut and styled, and yesterday Katie made her first foray into stylish short hairdos.

Katie is a master with an iPhone. She searched back and forth reviewing pictures of styles that might work with her face shape and relative lack of hair.

She settled on a sort of modified “Twiggy” look from back in the ‘60s and ordered up frosted highlights to top the whole look off. The affair was a bit of a celebration — a coming of full circle from despair to a simple and exquisite joy.

Ninety minutes later, Katie sported a sharp new do, and with her freshly styled look there’s absolutely no hint of the trauma sustained four months prior.

Katie has returned back to part-time work, and every now and again she actually runs the eight miles to work from her house to office along the beautiful parks that line the waterfronts in Seattle.

This whole outcome is simply so wonderful that it puts unstoppable smiles on our faces just to think about it.

Fascinatingly, a good deal of Katie’s fortune in recovery is due to friendships I made three years ago during a one-month program at the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania.

There we met, lived, and worked with business executives literally from all around the world. Two in particular became good friends: “KJ” — an executive with ING India, and Jeff, a manager at Boeing Business Jets in Seattle.

These two and many others of our small group continued to correspond and occasionally visit each other long after our one month experience.

Eight months ago Katie and Carrie and I had dinner with Jeff and his wife, Melanie, who happened to be an HR director at a large maritime firm in Seattle. A few weeks later Melanie offered Katie a job, which Katie accepted.

Amazingly, Katie’s medical insurance from her new company went into force six short days before the accident occurred.

More amazingly, just 40 minutes before her accident, my friend KJ from India emailed his Indian phone number.

I didn’t previously have his number and I didn’t initially think much of it when his email hit my iPhone.

But 40 minutes later, when we were desperately searching for help for our dying daughter, I pulled out my phone, hit KJ’s number, and thankfully he answered from 1,000 miles away someplace else in India.

“KJ, I have a terrible problem — our daughter has been hit and is unconscious and there’s no local help.”

“Don’t worry, Gary — I have employees in Jaipur and I will set everything up at the local hospital.”

KJ told us where to take Katie and what to do. When we finally arrived at the hospital with Katie comatose and bleeding profusely, KJ’s men were already in place, with hospital staff fully prepared and ready to go.

With the help of our friend we went from helpless and lost into safe, capable hands.

It appears a miracle of coincidence that friends made three years ago all the way back at an East Coast school came into our daughter’s life in totally unexpected ways, supplying both the medical insurance paying for Katie’s recovery as well as the direction, support, and influence Katie needed in India.

This is a story that remarkably spans half the globe in friendships made and nurtured and kept.

And yet this is not total coincidence. While life is exploding all around us 24/7 in ways we cannot anticipate or control, we build friendships, associates, and networks that glue us together and assist us navigating through life’s considerable twists and turns.

Katie’s experience in India was extraordinary, but friendships made on an everyday basis also bring extraordinary everyday hope, happiness, and comfort.

Still, so often we look down while walking. We fail to make eye contact. We wave driving by neighbors but don’t stop to get to know them.

We don’t stop to learn the names of those serving at stores and shops.

Life seems too busy for these simple friendship-builders, but friendships built, like glue, hold together our fragile lives and bring deepest meaning.

Friendship literally saved our daughter. And yesterday Katie had her first haircut, and it was such a beautiful thing to stop and watch and take such a simple thing in.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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