2014 was the first time in my life that a friend silently slipped off the radar and into friendship oblivion. I guess I can’t really complain. At 33, I was probably due for a big friend fallout. But this wasn’t just a friend; this was a really good friend. This was the kind of friend I spent holidays with when I couldn’t get home to my family. The kind of friend I lovingly referred to as a “sister from another mister.” The kind of friend who was one of the funnest — and funniest — people I’ve ever known. The kind of friend whose absence hasn’t gone unnoticed. And I’m not gonna lie: it has been both hard and horrible.
In my mind’s version of the story there wasn’t a specific moment where things went wrong. It was more of a slow fizzle. I moved back to Ohio after an extended period of time working out-of-state and we seemed to pick back up where we had left off. A few months later, once eagerly-embraced lunch invites were getting pushed off never to be rescheduled.
At first, I tried to blame it on the age old struggle between Camp Parent and Camp Freebird. I didn’t have any skin in the game when it came to Brownie gossip or ballet recitals. She had obligations and a spouse who presumably frowned on standing Wine Wednesdays. But the reality is that I have many busy parent friends. Despite the seeming differences in lifestyles, when a relationship is important to the people on both sides…you find a middle ground. Each side bends a little. You adapt and find a way.
There have been times over the past few months when I’ve wanted to send my friend a letter. Sometimes I’m curious to know what happened. Sometimes I’m tempted to rant for pages about how disappointed I am. Whenever I start to type, I stop myself. I stop myself because I realize whatever the case or response or reason, I’m writing to a stranger and chasing the ghost of a friendship that has already slipped away.
I recently read a post on this topic, and the author’s words really hit home:
Losing a friend is very much like a break-up, in the sense that any form of interaction that you have with that person in the future will never be the same again. No matter how much either of you try, once you have crossed that line of inescapable complications and incompatibility, everything that you shared with each other will slowly deteriorate, until ultimately letting go is the only option left.
The thing about us is that we are fixers. We are the ‘Bob the Builders’ of our own lives, and it gets pretty devastating once we find ourselves in a position where the answer to “Can we fix it?” is “No, we can’t.”
Perhaps there is a point in certain friendships — a point at which we stop seeing things — and each other — clearly. A point at which we believe ourselves to be patching everything together, but in reality we’re just making a mess of things. As children, it’s easy to know when to call it quits. The summer sun threatens to set, your mother’s voice finds you beckoning to pack it in. Things get slightly more difficult in adulthood. We can eat when we want and the sun no longer tells us what to do and when. There are no rule books or guide maps for this. As grownups, we’re the captains of our own sailing and sinking ships. Sometimes we surface to find ourselves the lone survivor of something we once believed invincible. Sometimes we’re left standing on a shore of silent wreckage, clutching memories as the sole surviving souvenirs of a one-time forever friend.
I miss you friend. I hope your heart is happy.