I’ve lived long enough to have a few ex-friends in my closet. Some of them have served a great purpose in my life while others were just bad choices. There was one, however, that haunts me still. I try not to make deciphering the clues to our demise a full-time job, however I can’t seem to find peace in her feverish exit.
I met Susan when our kids were in Kindergarten. It wasn’t love at first sight, but when she showed up at my house after my father died, we made a powerful connection. Although we were very different; she a full-time breadwinning Mom and me a part-time dabbler in the working world, we found solid ground in our humor, our children and our support through life’s most challenging moments. She pulled me through family death and a sibling’s mental illness; I aided her through job changes and divorce. I cooked dinner for her birthday every year; she included me in Passover and Super Bowl Sunday. Neither of us had a picnic life, nor did we care who did better on any given day. We argued like sisters but always worked things out, coming back with a stronger and more evolved relationship.
Every July, Susan rented a house on Cape Cod near mine. This was our quality time –to sit side by side in beach chairs, eat cheese and crackers and relish rare New England warmth. I couldn’t wait to see her. Her life had shifted to a better place since the divorce and I knew our time would be even better than last year’s meet-up.
Ten days into her vacation, Susan sent me an out-of context, curt text. She was too busy to see me, too much work to do. Although stunned, I responded empathetically. I never received a reply. I saved the texts, reading each one dozens of times for answers. I was sure it was a mistake. But she didn’t come back. It obviously was not. She was done with me and us, no reason and no rhyme.
Like any other typical woman, I consulted my friends. Was it me? Did I say something wrong? Was I too honest? Too nice? Too mean? Of course not, my friends would say as they shook their heads and clucked their tongues. They provided sympathy, listened intently. However, not one of them could give me the closure that I needed.
If I am being honest, this wasn’t my first break-up. I became very close with three women when our kids were all very young, and we were inseparable. They came to dinner regularly at my house; we watched each other’s children and even vacationed together. As the kids grew older, priorities shifted and we grew apart. Suddenly, there was talking behind backs and allegiances being drawn. What once was an important support system for me as a young mother became toxic. I got out of the foursome with battle wounds, but I survived. I did so because I knew that these women had served an important purpose for a finite time in my life. I also knew that we were way too different to survive our growing children’s diverse needs.
I really thought Susan was different. We were both in our forties, both evolved. The kind of stuff we went through together is the type of junk that we all go through, in one way or another. She knew everything about me and never judged me on any level. Her birthday still happened, four months after we stopped communication. Since I wasn’t making her dinner or getting her a special gift, I felt compelled to do something. So I wrote on her Facebook wall. She replied with a ‘thank you’ and that was it. It was a dead end.
Sometimes a friendship can survive the toughest of times; sometimes it can reach a roadblock. As a woman, I am ashamed that we can do this to one another so easily. And it is gender specific. I never hear my husband crying over a best friend that was hanging out with him one day and then gone the next. Is there anyway to avoid this happening again? The answer is no, for I refuse to not embrace new friends with the same passion I have always had for those I love. I am not proud that I lost Susan. I think about her often. I am, however, not afraid to jump in the waters of friendship again because sometimes it does work. And when it does, and when I find someone like Pam or Heather or Lauren, Maureen and Jen, it is like floating on a life raft that never loses air.