Friday, May 2, 2014

I saw her standing there

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. :(


  1. Relationships can be so tricky to navigate. I have many situations like this myself where I have found myself seeing them before they see me and keeping on walking.

    I think we do what feels best at the time, what feels right. If the relationship is meant to take off again, you will both come together at the same time, the right time, and move forward with common ground.

    Relationships fade and they strengthen and they fade again. It's good to hear that I'm not alone with this!

  2. It's hard when friendships unravel like that, and you don't quite know why. I had a close friend of many years reenter my life a few years ago, and then one day she just left me hanging. Unreturned texts, calls, and finally I just left it. She's still on my FB but I don't know what to do, I think I get what you're saying. How do you walk away from such an extensive friendship? I've known my friend for less time (around 18 years maybe, since 4th grade) and I hate to throw that away, so I leave it hanging in her court because I still don't rightly know what happened. It's disorienting, you think things are fine but then things slowly unravel and you just don't know what happened exactly.

    I'm sorry your friendship went that way, and I can relate to how confusing it is. I would leave the ball in her court for now, you've tried to figure things out... but I also know how hard that has to be with it just hanging there.

  3. I'm glad you wrote this. I'm glad that it wasn't infertility, loss or childlessness that created a barrier. But I'm sad your friendship drifted apart. For you, and the way it has made you feel.

    "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?" I read this and nodded, knowing how you felt. Each time I reach out I have hope. But if it isn't reciprocated, then I've decided it just makes me feel worse than if I hadn't done it in the first place. And a true friendship isn't supposed to make us feel bad.

    So I don't think it is about being the "bigger person." Because I think you've shown time and again that you are the bigger person.

  4. I know, a difficult decision.

    In the last decade I lost many friends. Almost always was the reason that I was just tired of reaching out. I was tired that it was always me who was assumed to have all the time available on the world. And my friends all have small children so it was clear that they were to busy to remember to keep in touch.

    Each of us has to find our our path. But as the years are passing by, I learnt to be quite comfortable being alone.
    (I just terribly miss my dog - he indeed knew how to show me that he wanted to be with me ALL the time :)

    warm hugs.

  5. (((HUGS))) 35 years of friendship is really a big deal - and on top of that you've been there for each other in many different life situations. I'm sorry it turns out this way, but friendship is a two-way street and you can't do it on your own.

  6. Timely post. And I understand your dilemma. There are some people it's easier to pick up where things left off than others. Clearly both have to invest the time and emotional energy to make it work--and we're not always at the same place at the same time to do so. Rather than assume it's over and done with I would allow some time to see if a new shoot will form, or if it's more of an old growth forest (forgive my botany-challenged metaphor). Just as you've trusted your intuition to date, she may surprise you...

  7. @Pamela: I would never assume that it's over... I'm always open to hearing from her! And I may yet give her a call or email -- if only to let her know when I'm retiring, lol. I'm just not in a hurry to make the first move. (Again.)

  8. The relationships that hurt the most when they ended, were the ones I had with women. Whether they thought I was to blame or vice versa or they withered due to neglect, I never forgot any of them. But you can't, can you? Cause it hurts when someone you care about and share history with just disappears from your life. Now I can understand why you walked past her. You just didn't know what to say. She probably has her own reasons and they have nothing to do with you.

  9. I lost, or rather, was abandoned by one of my own college roommates and very dear friend (we were in each others' weddings) in fall 2007. I think I blogged quite a bit about it at the time, because that kind of sudden silence is terrible. From 2008 to last year, our only contact was a Christmas card, and the messages grew briefer each year. But at Christmas 2012, I decided to add to my photo card, "I'd be glad to hear from you more often. I'm still at (email address)." It took a full year, and I had decided not to send her a card, but a few days before Christmas 2013, she did email me. It was so strange to hear from her out of the blue, and she had clearly written and rewritten the email -- it was oddly stilted in places. But she did say that she was very, very sorry we had not talked in so long. And that's all I needed to hear. It's as close to an apology as I require. I really didn't require much, clearly -- I am pretty sure, based on the timing of her breakup with me, that she experienced PPD and perhaps some marriage problems. I could also read between the lines of her email to guess that her oldest son may have some special needs that would have added to her lifelong struggle with depression at the time she abruptly stopped speaking to me.

    We've since emailed every few weeks and are slowly getting back to a place of friendship. I am very glad for it. She is never going to be my best friend again, but I'm glad we are on friendly terms at least. It made for a nice Christmas. : )

    So if I were you, I would email her on her birthday. Like Pamela said, she may surprise you at some time. : )

    I read this book right around the time my friend cut me off. It was pretty good.

  10. I neglected to mention that this post was inspired by Mali's recent post on friendship -- an expansion of my comment there:

  11. This made me pause - I can actually relate to your friend a bit. My job (while sadly not super high paying) has cah-razy hours and I'm starting to lose the ability to have time to keep in touch with people, even my parents. I worry that this will lead to alienation like this. It sounds like there is not a rift on her side, other than she's very limited with time. I certainly understand your own feelings as well. I would encourage you not to write her off - friendships like these are often the most important. I really hope you and she can connect again.

  12. I had to comment. I have been on both ends of this. Sometimes, I am just ready to let a friendship go and I can't even tell you a reason why. When getting together doesn't seem to happen naturally it just seems better sometimes to move on. However, I have felt like, wow, I have called so many times and now I just feel like I am being a bother. It's tough. It is so hard to make good friends as an adult, it seems so sad when one ends, whatever the reason.

    Ms. G