Postmortem for a Friendship
It died about six months ago, but it has come back to haunt me, and it’s got me in a funk. I was trying to think of what I wanted to blog about and the funk got in the way, so that’s what I’m writing about.
R. and I were friends for more than 20 years. Intimate, share-your-deepest-darkest-secrets friends. We saw each other through some very tough times, and her guidance during some of my most troubled moments were life-savers. I think I reciprocated, supporting her through her life’s many troubles and one real tragedy (her son’s suicide).
We met through writing and shared a love of poetry, art, music, knitting, the beach, and our grandchildren (her granddaughter and my grandson–both our first grandchildren–were born 20 minutes apart).
She now lives in a city some distance away, but she comes here frequently to visit family. We saw each other every couple of months, usually for coffee or a walk. When I visited her we enjoyed her backyard pool, thrift shopping, the beach and lots of good talk.
She was always high maintenance: She’s not tech-savvy, so we had communication problems with her inability to master email or cell phones. She has a terrible sense of direction, gets lost easily and has severe anxiety, leading to meltdowns with taxi drivers. So I did the driving, sometimes across town or to the airport, or dealing with scarce parking at her mother’s care facility. There were many more issues that made our friendship challenging, but having a close, supportive friend seemed to be worth the effort.
Until she just got too weird. As a recovering alcoholic, she has addiction issues, one of which was terribly inappropriate relationships after her husband died. As an honest friend, I felt it necessary to call her on it, for her own well-being, and wrote to her with my concerns. She cut off our friendship, and it was actually a relief to me. A few months later she called and apologized and asked if we could talk. We met for coffee and both apologized and went back to our normal visits and talks. She remained in the relationship that I believed was harmful to her, but I said no more.
A few months after our reconciliation, I called her after not hearing from her for a while. She answered, repeated what she’d previously said about how much I had hurt her with my letter, and hung up without my saying a word. That was last August.
I was even more relieved. No more drama, no more chauffeuring her around, no more walking on eggs, afraid I’d set her off. This was the end. I told my husband if she ever calls again I won’t even answer.
She called yesterday afternoon. It’s very hard for me not to answer a ringing phone, but I listened to her “minuet” ringtone until it stopped. I didn’t listen to the voice mail. A few hours later while I was fixing dinner she called again. Again, I let it ring. After dinner I listened to both voice mails. The first was extremely apologetic, she misses me, she knows her life is so much less rich without me, etc. The second, her voice was all excited: “Oh, Jill, I’m so glad you called me back. I can’t believe I missed your call.” This is the non-tech-savvy person who probably saw her call to me on her call log and mistook it for a call from me. Later in the evening she called once more. And the tinkling minuet woke me this morning, with a voice mail wishing me a wonderful day.
I’m not going back. She is, and our friendship was, so fragile I can’t tip-toe any more, or wait for the next wrong thing I say to cause an explosion. But I feel cruel not letting her know. If she calls again I may pick up, say, “You ended it six months ago. I’m done.” And hang up.
Am I being a hard-assed bitch or just taking care of myself? I’m not sure, but I can’t go back.
We supported each other’s art and gave each other many gifts. I bought this painting of hers from a gallery during a visit to her town. It remains on the wall, although I did shred some photos of us.