I saw my first-year university roommate this week, for the first time in a very long time. I was walking through the underground PATH (which connects Toronto's downtown office towers) at lunchtime, and she was standing off to the side, out of the flow of foot traffic, pecking away at her cellphone.
I walked past her. And I kept on walking. :(
I don't think she saw me. I felt huge, enormous sadness.
If I see her another time, I may act differently -- but I just didn't have it in me to be a bigger person just then.
It will be 35 years (!!!) this coming fall since we were assigned to live together by the powers that be at our university residence. I wasn't sure what to expect -- and while we came from very different backgrounds and had somewhat different personalities, we had a lot of fun together. We remained close as we completed our degrees there over the next few years, and then after she returned to Ontario to continue her studies there. We actually got married on the same day (she to her second husband -- a guy I introduced her to), and the two of us, separately and together with our husbands, saw each other quite frequently those first few years after I moved to Toronto.
She was, and remains, one of the few people hereabouts who knew me in a pre-dh life, and who I felt comfortable confiding in. Even after dh & I moved to the suburbs, and she and her husband split up, she and I have always worked near each other downtown, and we continued to have lunch together every month or so, for many, many years, even as her high-powered career took off and her schedule became increasingly hectic. On my birthdays, she would treat me to lunch at her swanky private club and present me with a thoughtfully chosen and beautifully wrapped gift. (I would return the gesture on her birthday, albeit at a slightly less expensive and exclusive restaurant.) When I confided in her that I was trying to get pregnant, she loaned me a book she said had helped her conceive her son. When I got pregnant, she was thrilled for me; when I lost Katie, she sent a huge bouquet of beautiful white flowers. I was having lunch with her the day I had my first anxiety attack in June 2001, just after my final failed IUI; she loaned me her cellphone to call my RE & then dh, stayed with me until he arrived, and called me later in the day to check on me and how I was doing.
I never got the sense that my infertility, loss or childlessness had created a barrier between us. That said, she was a very busy women with problems of her own that she was dealing with, and over the last 5-10 years, our lunches started becoming less and less frequent.
How many times do you call or email someone, how many unreturned voice mails do you leave, before you decide to leave the ball in their court? It took me a long time -- but eventually this was the decision I made. I had not seen nor heard from her in at least two years. And then I saw her father's obituary in the newspaper in the fall of 2010. I couldn't NOT acknowledge her loss -- so I emailed her (I didn't even have a home address for her any more). She emailed me back to thank me and a few weeks later, she called to set up lunch. We had a long, long talk about the twists and turns our lives had taken in recent years. She apologized for not being in touch, thanked me for being a good friend, for not being judgmental (as she felt some of her friends had become). She promised we'd get together again soon.
We exchanged a (very) few emails after that, far and few between. I messaged her in the spring of 2012 to wish her a happy birthday -- after debating if I should do so -- she responded, I responded, and that's the last time I heard from her. I debated if I should email her last year on her birthday -- & decided not to. She has not acknowledged my birthday in years. Her birthday is coming around again soon, and I'm again struggling with the question of whether I should try to get in touch. There is a large part of me that continues to feel that I've reached out again and again, and the ball should now remain firmly in her court. But you don't just lightly shrug off 35 years of friendship. :(
I'm not mad at her. Just very, incredibly, enormously sad that, somehow, inexplicably, we have drifted so far apart. :(