Two years ago I wrote about the perplexing loss of a long-term close friendship. At the time, three years had passed and now at the five year mark, I decided to revisit that story:
Recently one old friend asked about another old friend. And I had to confess that I really had no comment. We have not spoken in about three years. Not a word.
When he pressed me for more details, asking if we’d had a falling out or an argument, I was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know what happened, it’s just over.”
What is odd about it, is the fact that I can’t point to a precipitating episode that lead to its demise. I honestly can’t say that over time, we found to have less and less in common or that our conversations became burdensome or less frequent.
It simply ended, with no apparent cause, explanation, argument or the benefit of a revealing, heart to heart talk. There was no debriefing.
I can tell you this. It was mutual. But only in as much as it was the result of mutual inaction.
Looking back on our thirty year friendship, we had a deep intimacy and closeness. It was one of those relationships where we could tell each other pretty much anything. For much of our friendship, we lived on opposite coasts and so most of our communication was done over the phone. But we managed to see each other every year or two. I am a night owl, and with him being three time zones away, I could call in the middle of the night when he was just starting his work day. We talked about our own relationships, mutual friends and work. Usually the conversations were about the mundane. We have a similar sense of humor and could laugh over the same things. But we also could talk freely about the painful and rather difficult aspects of our lives; and it was usually something about our partners and family. And we also talked a lot about ourselves. We had a confessor type of relationship, one where we’d say things to each other that we’d probably not tell anyone else. The words of our hearts flowed freely, and were met with love, kindness and without judgment.
Okay, if truth be told, it’s not as simple as it just ending. At some point I realized that most of the communication was initiated by me. Though because of my changing schedule and his more predictable one, it worked for us. Almost four years ago, we moved to Philadelphia and in the craziness of house hunting, shopping for schools and learning the city, I realized that we hadn’t talked for quite a few weeks. I resumed some contact and even saw each other once briefly for lunch, but I decided to conduct an experiment. I decided to stop initiating communication. I figured that a few weeks, maybe a month or two would go by and he’d pick up the phone to check in. So I waited. And waited. Weeks became months and now months has become three years. Three years. Where did the time go? A quarter of my son, Henry’s life, gone.
Do I regret doing that. You bet. Do I miss him? Of course. Have I done anything but blog about it? No. I know that I could pick up the phone or send an email, but I fear that too much (or too little) has happened over these thirty-six months and it can’t be repaired. I wonder whether he feels the same way, and what I would say or do if he called me. I am saddened and angry that he didn’t care enough about this old friend to make more of an effort. And frankly, I guess he could say the same about me. I changed the rules of the game and didn’t give him the playbook. My take away from this is; Unless something is really broken, and I mean truly broken in a friendship, don’t mess with it. Think twice about what you are discarding. I wish I had continued to make the effort. I’ll keep you posted how all this turns out.
Update: As I mentioned earlier, it’s now been five years with no contact with that particular friend. Those years have been busy for our family and time seems to whirl past at breakneck speed. You’d think after all this time that I wouldn’t be giving this another thought. And yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about him and wanted to reach out and reconnect. Once I even picked up the phone and considered just calling as if it hadn’t been five years but merely a few weeks or months. I thought; “Maybe he’s been so busy that he won’t even realize how much time has passed between us.” I imagine he’ll ask if Henry is eight or nine and I’ll laugh and say that he’s now almost fourteen and looking at high schools. We’ll pick up where we left off and make plans for a visit sometime soon. You know, it would be easier if we had fought about something, broken up over some irreconcilable differences. At least I could name it. Call me an idiot, but I’m considering reaching out sometime soon.