Tuesday, April 15, 2008

connections past and present

Ever just feel like a walking spiral of doom? I found out yesterday that the mother of one of my good college friends passed away from cancer. Death and destruction seem to shadow my every step these days, despite my rose-colored life.

I've lost personal touch with most of my college friends. Not one of them knows a thing about the past 14 or 15 months of doom that has shadowed me. I think most of them think I live a fairly glamorous, successful life. My husband, by outward appearances, is kind and funny and professionally successful. We live in a dynamic urban city, we go out, we have friends here, we do things. I have a moderately successful professional life, which they know I've always wanted.

Most of my college friends married younger than I did, and had children much earlier. Most of them, interestingly, had initial early miscarriages. One used Clomid, another had IVF. All are still, as far as I know, happily married. One has a son with autism. Many have had challenges - debt, out of work husbands, some depression. Nearly all are stay at home moms. Only one or two have done a clever opting out type job - creating their own rewarding professional career that allows them to spend more time at home. Most live in far, far outer suburbs or small towns.

My friend who just lost her mother has, by all outward signs, an amazing husband. Smart, generous, caring. He's been battling severe melanoma for the past 3 years. It's been bad. Experimental treatments, aggressive treatments, hushed talk of "last holidays" - but things seem stable right now. Two years ago, when he first got a relatively clean scan (followed soon after by a recurrence), his father dropped dead suddenly, unexpectedly, of a heart attack. At about the same time, her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My friend has been through a lot.

When my husband has his first affair, 5 years ago, one weekend when I couldn't take it anymore I drove 4 hours to my friend's house. Her husband was away on an extended trip, and she listened, and helped, and was there for me. I haven't been there for her. She lives now an hour from me. I had a newborn when her husband was first diagnosed, not an excuse, but sort of one. Our other friends, who are more home-y, more comforting types, seemed to swoop in and fill the spaces. The stay at home moms packed up their kids and went to stay with our friend during tough times, and I worked and had a small child. I was the horrid friend who dropped away when times got tough, I guess.

I last talked, really talked, with my friend nearly a year ago, and it was as if nothing had changed, we connected immediately, her feeling as badly as I did at our lost connection. Since then, my life fell to pieces and I choose to reach out to my newest group of friends, the ones in my mom's group, the ones that were physically here.

So now there's a small e-mail chain of my college friends, passing along news. A few people - the ones who were so there for there during her husband's illness - are of course going to the funeral. I think I am a bit jealous they are so there. I really can't go - I have meetings set up this week, I'm broke, I feel like crap, I was just at a funeral two weeks ago. Excuses, excuses.

I know friendships wax and wane. I know people change, lives are different, priorities are different. I know they (anyone from the entire group) could reach out to me as much as I could reach out to them. Sometimes I miss them, sometimes something out of the blue reminds me of one of my college friends. Most of the time I don't think of them at all, I must admit, but when I do I certainly think of most of them with a great deal of fondness. And in the infrequent times we do get together, with many there's still that immediate connection/intimacy of good old friends.

I've always been a categorizer - my hometown friends, my college friends, my grad school friends, my this job friends, my that job friends, my moms group friends. My little boxes of friends. There are a few - very, very few - people who transcend those categories, who wind their way through the threads of my life. Who know all, or at least most, of my boxes. I guess those few are my best friends.

Tell me, who are your friends? Do you make new ones and leave behind old ones? Or are you still friends with your best friend from childhood? From college? Do you think of old friends, with bitterness? With regret? With fondness?


Tash said...

I have one of these friends, too. I think we both need to get off our collective duffs and write some emails.

niobe said...

There's only one friend I miss and think about all the time. You know who she is.

clickmom said...

I love the saying that friends are yours for a reason, a season or a life time. WIsh I could tell you I am surrounded by lifers, but the truth is that all of our lives are hard in one way or another and it just seems to be pulling us all into isolation.

Antigone said...

I think I'd be doing better if I hadn't withdrawn from my friendships. I just didn't have the time for them. Work. Work work work work work. I didn't have the time for phonecalls, flights across the country, even e-mail. So now..I only have one friend who I hang out with or talk to: my husband. I really need to reconnect with my friends. I know they're all there for me, that they would be thrilled to hear from me.

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