The Friendship Obituaries

When life throws painful nonsense at you, write something.

Who gets through life without losing a friend? When I ask that, I don’t mean losing a friend to the world beyond the veil. The friendship isn’t dead in those cases. The person is gone, but the love, the care, the thoughts remain.

My friend blurred out...

No. I mean loss through argument, betrayal, and other dangerous doors.

The friendship dies and needs to be buried. Maybe you have a ritual for loss of this kind, but most of us, I think, don’t give these losses the attention they deserve.

Who breaks your heart more: friends or lovers?
(I hoped the stars helped you if friend and lover were one and the same.)

A few days ago a friend wrote me this: I do not want to be friends with any of you anymore. Do not contact me anymore. Leave me alone.

That’s clear, isn’t it? This friend wrote this to me and two others. The four of us had been friends since 1987.

The first time I met L…

…she stood next to a box at dorm room window. She introduced me to her mother. I thought she looked nothing like her mother.

I was right. Her mother was really her step-mother and I would later learn how her step-mother used to hit her with a hairbrush and call her a whore because a few boys had seen her underwear when she’d swung too high on the swing.

Her real mother had died a few months after she was born.

I had had a step-mother, and she and I shared a lot of stories in that dorm room. Perhaps I shared more. In my memory, I was more forthcoming than she was.

She shrugged a lot at the end of her stories.

She made me laugh though. She had a quirky sense of humor. “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?”

“Why?”

“It died. Why did the second monkey fall out of the tree?”

“It died?””

“No. It was stapled to the first monkey.”

I laughed every time. I still laugh.

In favorite photograph of her I am hiding under a pile of pillows and she has a notebook in her hand. On a page she has written bad and drawn an arrow. She’s holding it so that the arrow points towards the pillows.

That was a long time ago.

Please leave your own Friendship Obituary. I plan on this being a series (because unfortunately I’ve the material). Other obituaries welcome.

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4 responses to “The Friendship Obituaries

  1. She fell out with a few people. She would never say why – just that the person had done something so terrible that she couldn’t talk about it. The people themselves didn’t know why. I was sure it would happen to me sooner or later. Eventually I would do or say something silly that she misunderstood. I never knew what I did.

    • You can never know how people perceive your actions no matter your intent. And it is difficult not to know what you’ve done.

      Thank you for sharing.

  2. I had a friend for 25 years, that I loved (and still love), but I stopped talking to her for a while, and the while grew long. After I moved back to Buffalo, where our friendship had been born, I’d tried to pick up our close weekly connection again– we’d never stopped contact and I had always made time for her on visits back. But now she was always busy, and seemed to be in the process of rejecting me for having grown up a little during my 30s and early 40s that I spent in Indiana. Once my boss & mentor, she still had my utter respect. I got none from her. She kept not returning my calls, and when she did finally talk at me, she always made sure to demean me in some way– a backhanded compliment, a condescending judgment on something I said, putting down my former career or college studies or creative work– and after a year & a half of it, I realized that each time I spoke with her, I spent frustrated hours afterwards analyzing our conversations, trying to understand what was happening. It literally kept me awake nights. That kind of obsessing, I had dropped in my 20s but… And she just didn’t return my calls for weeks and weeks, or seem to want to see me, unless there was something she needed. I looked at my own behavior, and couldn’t find a reason why my formerly kind, warm friend should be so cold now. She controlled every conversation, and they all ended when she was done speaking her piece.

    It was tearing me apart, and I made the decision to just not speak with her until I could get enough distance from the situation not to be continually stressed out by it. I was still coming back from a major relapse of my autoimmune disease at the time, and the stress was making it worse. I tried a few last times just to see or talk to her, talk it out, and got ignored, except for a very last minute phone invitation to a party that all her other friends had been invited to for over a month. The last thing I wanted to do was be in a roomful of people while she studiously avoided me, as she had at the other parties I’d been to at her place in the last 2 years.

    So I stopped calling her. And after a while, she called me, finally. Even her voicemails carried insulting subtext. I avoided all of our mutual friends, all the places we might meet, and hoped that I would soon be able to reach out again. It was hell. I was still stressed at the very thought of her, rehearsing what I could possibly say if we met. When we ran into each other at last, she pretended to be jolly and said “You’re not talking to me these days.” I told her, as I’d planned, “Nothing to say.” I felt I couldn’t say anything, because she wasn’t hearing me. She hadn’t been ready to listen before, and now I was, for a while, beyond discussing it.

    The while grew past a year. She emailed me a question about why– & her questioning was completely devoid of any possible responsibility on her part for the end of our friendship. It was an angry demand for a reason, there was not a particle of openness or generosity to it. She had once been the soul of generosity to me, and it had hurt beyond hurt to watch her treat others kindly while she put me down in public when I was sick, weak, and learning how to live the disabled life.

    I never answered that email. The tone of it told me she no longer loved or valued me, she just hated what she saw as a rejection. I haven’t spoken to her in person since, but after a few years we have begun to cautiously email. The bond we had withered, and I’m not sure it can be revived, or that I want to revive it at all. But I never wanted it gone in the first place. I feel I had no power to keep our friendship going, but to all of our mutual friends, I am the one who mysteriously broke things apart. They don’t understand because I couldn’t & wouldn’t speak against her to others in any way, and how could I explain without doing that? So she got all of our friends in the split.

    I guess this is a long obit for a zombie of a friendship. I only hope my brain doesn’t get eaten this time.

    • Yes. I understand! That stressing and obsessing and wondering what one has said or done and finding nothing. It’s terrible. It really is a loss. There should be more recognition for friendship loss. It’s a strange, complicated thing. Thanks for sharing this story. I can relate.

      And there’s that tricky question of can you heal a damaged friendship? It’s not impossible, but it takes certain things to happen. Not that I know what those things are. But it takes a lot to heal that broken trust.

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