Viewing entries tagged

A Farewell to Friend

A Farewell to Friend

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 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. 

A Sixteenth Year: Life, Friendship and the Burnham Building

yearbook While I was home for Christmas vacation I found myself meandering down memory lane by way of old yearbooks, photos and a handful of notes my mother had pilfered from my backpack and carefully tucked away for the last 10+ years. Between the pages of smiling faces I rediscovered inside jokes (long-since forgotten) and summertime promises, dusty with the passing of time.

I'm a writer by trade, but every so often even I find myself flooded by an emotion that renders me speechless, leaving me grasping for the just-right words. Like the fringe between asleep and awake, it's a magical grey area; a combination of reality and fantasy, somewhere between a dream and a memory.

I had an amazing group of friends in high school. We were a ragtag team, our own little roving pack of misfits. We perfected the art of skipping school and had a thing for country drives. A tank of gas was the price of freedom, and ten dollars was all it took to feel invincible and impervious to the world. Truth be told, I don't know that I have ever felt more present in the moment than I did during those afternoons with the windows down, the radio up and the sun shining in on our little corner of the universe.

Sophomore year we made a group decision to participate in the school play. Not having a theater at our own at our high school meant passing a semester in a suspended state of hormone-infused, sugar-and-caffeine laden evenings in The Burnham Building, a practical, sturdy, brick building that had once served as the city's lone high school.

Night after night we showed up for rehearsals and reprimands from cranky directors and stage managers. Though the months felt infinite at the time, looking back, I now realize we were growing up and growing apart at the speed of life. Each day prepared us for the great unknown that lay ahead. We laughed hard and we crushed hard. We drove to Taco Bell to ponder the future over 7-layer burritos. We overanalyzed anything and everything anyone said or did. We complained about our parents, our part-time jobs, our age. We talked about the future like we had it all figured out.

Over the course of those few precious months of practices and rehearsals, I took my first (and only) sip of peach schnapps (just one capful). My first real crush grew into my first real love, (rather than bringing it to his attention I silently spent every night thereafter hoping he'd magically take note.) I discovered one of my closest friend was living a secret life, soon to surface (ultimately breaking the hearts of girls far and wide.) I tirelessly battled my parents when "everyone else" was allowed to do XYZ and I was not (and for each of those "grave injustices" when they stood their ground I don't think I'll ever be able to thank them enough.)

For all the time we spent at Burnham, I remember very little about the building. I can't recall if the seats were cushioned or wooden, painful or comfortable. I don't remember where the restrooms were located or what the dressing rooms looked like. My lingering memories are rooted in emotions and senses: the rush of sitting close, the scent of Abercombie cologne, cherry pie and Diet Dr. Pepper, awkwardly dancing between tape lines as Cake's "Going the Distance" blared from somewhere off in the distance.

As for the building, the one memory I have retained remains that of the backstage walls. Having been used for decades, the painted tiles of backstage Burnham were covered in messages from other plays, other people, other times. Decades of names and notes; a time capsule from the past to the present by all who had passed. Hidden away from the rest of the world, those walls were a place to make a mark and remind the future that we were here. My friends and I, like so many others before, left a legacy preserved for posterity in black Sharpie ink, and when we walked away from the building after our final curtain call that spring, I had no idea it would be for the last time.

Life changes us. It changes the way we think, the way we trust, the way we love. We not only grow older and wiser, we grow different. We begin to opt for the direct route home rather than the meandering country drive. A ten-dollar tank of gas becomes little more than a line item on a monthly budget, midnight swims no longer cross our minds. We  grow older and grow to accept certain inalienable truths: not all is possible, not all is infinite, so much is so very fragile. We move away, we move into new chapters and new lives, leaving our eternal autumn behind.

At 31 I now understand that the handful of friends with whom I roamed the backstage of Burnham were not just the people I spent my formative years with, they were the loves of my life. With each country drive, first cigarette and  Dr. Pepper toast, our lives were being inextricably intertwined. Like siblings, we grew up together. We became a family suspended in time.

Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my dear high school friends. As we reminisced, I mentioned my intention to return to Burnham one day to revisit our wall. Turns out the city razed the building a few years ago. They put up something shiny and new in its place.

Author Richard Ford once said, "What was our life like? I almost don't remember now. Though I remember it, the space of time it occupied. And I remember it fondly." Stage lights may dim and buildings may crumble to the ground, but I like to think the ghost of my 16-year-old self is still happily sitting in the theater seats I cannot quite recall. Surrounded by the contents of her backpack, shoes strewn to the side, I like to imagine her putting off geometry homework for one hour more, head in the clouds as she makes makes a mental note to call her best friend about something "Carlos Juan."

I don't know that I will ever return to the site where Burnham once stood, it seems my mind has preserved it better than time. I'm sure that in a decade or two, the details of songs and snacks will have escaped my mind. But as for the space of time it occupied...that, I am certain, my heart will remember fondly.

A Letter to a Friend: The Joy of Dirty Dishes

[From a letter to a friend] I hate it when people leave, but I adore the silent hum and hush that fills the house after a happy evening with people you love. I spent my childhood sneaking peeks at my parents’ parties, trying to figure out where that magic comes from. To this day, I still haven’t been able to find the right word for it, but I know what it feels like. And I know how to spot the artifacts and fingerprints it leaves whispering in its wake. Empty wine bottles, corks here and there. Layers of plates stacked on top of one another. Plate, wadded up cocktail napkin, utensil. Plate, wadded up cocktail napkin, utensil.  Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink – and for just one night, nobody cares.

It fills the empty spaces between walls and floors, foundations and ceilings radiating with an almost palpable sense of aliveness.

It’s hard for me to imagine many other moments in life when I feel more acutely aware of the passing of time than in the hum and hush, alone at last, just me and the dirty dishes. These moments leave me feeling deeply blessed, wishing for a bigger dinner table…and more minutes, more years, more dinners, more cheers, more refills and popped corks and cups of coffee (I won’t drink) with dessert.

If I ever write a cookbook, I’m going to call it “The Joy of Dirty Dishes.”

And I will mean it.