Breaking Up With A Friend

photo "Sindone Days" by _ankor@flickr.com

Our friendship started just short of ten years ago, when our sons gravitated towards each other at Gymboree. It was almost as if each knew that the other was an only child, and while one was mobile and the other was not, they managed to stick pretty close to each other, climbing over mats and across obstacle courses. Of course, she and I were immediately drawn to each other – two young mothers appreciating how nicely our children played together. We were amazed to discover our similarities: we had both been English teachers and attended colleges in the East. One of her sorority sisters had been a friend of mine in high school; their financial guy was someone I’d known in high school. Like me, she loved horses. And books. We’d both played the flute.

Over the weeks, months, and years, she became the best friend I ever had. Pathological as it sounds, except for when she packed up her station wagon and went to her place in the mountains for five excruciating weeks each summer, not a day went by where one of us didn’t call or see the other. We went grocery shopping together and bathing suit shopping together. We ate lunches at her house and dinners at mine. And I never tired of her. Ever.

As the boys’ grew older, her son grew heavier while mine grew lean. Hers preferred to stay in his pajamas and watch television while mine was up and at ‘em with a “sproing” in his every step. We tried to hold them together – even forced them to play together – but theirs was a friendship born out of our desire for things to stay the same.

"slowly withering away" by megyarsh @flickr.com

One day, I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I realized our friendship was unraveling. Once, we had once joked that we were Frog and Toad, the infamous amphibian duo created in a series of children’s books by Arnold Lobel, but suddenly, it just didn’t feel good anyone. Actually, that isn’t quite true. It wasn’t sudden at all. There had been a series of transgressions on both sides. Years of hurt feelings that had never been addressed. What makes relationships end?

One cold, gray day, in the midst of my internal drama, I visited the tailor to have a few dresses altered. It was an errand that had been on my to-do list for a long time, and I felt good about finally taking the action step. I pulled my turtleneck over my head and alternated from one outfit to the next as the tailor marked the soon-to-be new hemlines with a special chalky-white line.

That night, as I went through my regular routine – brush teeth, wash face, remove watch, remove earrings – I realized one of my earrings was missing. They had been a fabulous pair, antique looking and sparkly, with just the right kind of clasp to keep them from slipping out of my ears. My friend had bought them for me years earlier, and the gesture showed that she knew me perfectly: my taste that favors pretty, old, one-of-a-kinds over anything hip and new and now; she even understood my quirky earlobes that refuse to retain wires or studs. Purchased for no good reason, they were simply “just because,” and I had worn them every day for years.

That night, I barely slept. I was sure somewhere on that tailor’s floor my earring was camouflaged amidst straight pins, stray threads, and lint. Early the next morning, I called the tailor, a stout man who spoke broken English with a heavy Russian accent. He shouted “no understand” and hung up on me. Pulling on my winter coat, I returned to his shop and got down on my hands and knees, searching frantically for my favorite earring. I showed him its lonely partner, cupped in my palm, and he looked through the lost and found pile, cluttered with other people’s lost trinkets. When he gestured toward the vacuum cleaner, I jumped at the chance. Of course, I reasoned, the earring had been sucked up inside the vacuum cleaner. I confidently ripped open the dusty bag.

It wasn’t there.

As the tailor’s door shut behind me with a thud-slam, I knew it was gone. Yes, the earring, but also the friendship. I had to stop searching for it and let it go. Buddha said: “There is no peace in the world until you find peace within yourself in this moment.” I am not angry with my old friend; there is nothing to forgive. No one did anything terrible, but our relationship had become something confused for friendship. I’d be lying if I said the loss wasn’t difficult. Detox is never easy; ask any addict. And she and I, we had a ten-year habit.

9 responses to “Breaking Up With A Friend

  1. wow I had lost precious friendship to me and was blown away by the calm in your post ! It sounds to me like a beautiful way to talk about your friendship and your friend… Bravo !

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  2. Carole Diamond Frankel

    How brave and wise of you – loved your post.

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  3. Well written….this has happened to us all but you put it so eloquently.

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  4. Alas. A friend is a person whom one knows and is fond of. When that bond is broken it hurts like hell. Unfortunately deattachments do occur and we must continue on and make new chums. I loved how you expressed this pain. Great blog.

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  5. beth kushnick

    I loved this. Unfortunately, we have all gone through this, and hits home. beautifully written. love your blog.

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  6. Love this Renee. It is beautiful.

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  7. I met “Teresa” as teacher in the city. She was a young overwhelmed mother, who had very strong Italian parents, and was stressed by her husband’s lack of employment and his constant switching of jobs. During our friendship, I took her kids places she was afraid to take them, like the mall and the zoo. I paid her electricity bill more than once because her husband didn’t pay it and had run them into bankruptcy. Sadly, when her parents decided to move to Florida to retire, she decided to follow them there. I was sad, not only because I was losing the best friend I had ever had, but because I felt like she was following her folks because they bailed her out all the time when her husband messed up from job to job. I couldn’t help her pack, and I cried when she left.

    My husband and I went to visit one Thanksgiving and “Teresa” had met some great neighbors, had a new home that was a step up from what she had before, and she seemed so happy. When we came to the house, the screen to the sliding glass door to the pool was broken. She pointed it out and said, “We don’t have the money right now to fix it.” My husband and I had wondered what to get them for housewarming and asked if we could we get them something. She said they needed nothing. So I said, “Well, how about we give you some money for a new screen door?” She freaked out on me and said I made her feel bad, that I was always trying to fix her. I never looked at my helping pay an electricity bill in the middle of winter when she told me she had no money as making her feel bad, but of course I told her I was sorry. I never meant to make her feel bad and just wanted to get her something I thought she might want.

    Since then, we have not spoken. It hurts me, and I feel horrible. I have tried to call, email, and have gotten quite mean responses. I have let it go, but I do think about her and feel bad. I never wanted that to happen. I will always be receptive if she wants to talk, but it seems as if I will have to dwell on the past, not the future. I missed something obviously, but have learned that folks will ask I guess when they want help and to be careful offering, because you never know what might offend someone.

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  8. I enjoyed this blog. I think most people come to this road at some point or another. I have and am in the midst of change and with it comes change in friendship, a hard but learning road. I am greatful for it in some ways. Anyways, thanks for that blog, it is so truthful and a good reminder that our paths in life are not so different from everyone elses.

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  9. blackwatertown

    Very good. Sad. Interesting. Philosophical. Not necessarily the absolute end. Some friendships – especially those that have been so strong and long standing – may ebb and flow over the years.

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