Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part B: Disappearing Friends

Back in the eighties I had a friend who was very dear to me named Betty. Unfortunately, I inadverently blew off our friendship. Bear in mind back in the early eighties I was somewhat of a party boy. I drank, I did a few drugs, I had a good time. My friend Betty did the same for a while, but she felt she was getting out of control, so she sought help to stop drinking. We continued to be friends for a while but because we were not in the same place after she stopped drinking, our friendship faultered.

Between the early eighties and 2003 I had also quit drinking, doing drugs and changed my lifestyle completely. I had become a different person. Today, I work out, try to be more health conscious with my food choices and generally take better care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Flash forward to 2007, I was laying out in the sun by Lake Michigan and I sat up and was looking around. I saw a girl jogging with her dog, I thought to myself, she is pretty. Within thirty seconds of that thought, she stopped and turned around and she said, "Glenn?" I didn't recognize her at first, but when I realized it was my old friend Betty, I was thrilled.

Subsequently, we made plans to get together and catch up on each other's lives. We renewed our friendship with vigor. I had remembered her  sister, Jennifer, who was in law school way back then. Jennifer is now a successful lawyer, owning her own LaSalle Street law firm. We went to a barbeque at Jennifer's beautiful home in Andersonville, just a few blocks from where I was living then.

I ended up becoming friends with Jennifer and did extensive decorative painting in her beautiful home. I worked feverishly for six to eight monthes on her house and had met her mother. Fran, her mother, was living with Jennifer and her two daughters. Fran was a wonderful lady in her late seventies or early eighties, she was living with Jennifer because she was dying from cancer.

Everything between Betty, Jennifer and myself I thought was going great until I got a blood clot in December 2007. I was out of commission for a six week period and I had scheduled work at Jennifer's home. I called her and explained, she then reassured me I could resume the work when I was physically able.

Right before I was to complete the prescheduled work, I got a late night phone call on my voicemail telling me Jennifer had  decided not to go forward with the prescheduled work. I tried relentlessly to call her to see if the work was permenantly cancelled or just postponed temporarily. I have never heard from her since.

A few monthes later Betty and Jennifer's mother, Fran, passed away from cancer. Betty called me with the news, we talked briefly because she was in the throngs of grief and dealing with her mother's death. I tried  several times to reach both Betty and Jennifer but it was  of no avail.

Since I was unable to reach them, I made them a sympathy card. I also wrote them a beautiful letter telling them how much I enjoyed their mother Fran. I went on to say in the letter, how proud Fran was of her daughters and her granddaughters because she had told me so herself.

In addition to those things, I  was given a wonderful book called "Nobody's Child Anymore." This book was given to me after my father had died, my last living parent. I had hoped the book would bring them comfort  after the loss of their mother, as it had for me after my father's passing. I took all of those things to Jennifer's house and left them with her live in boyfriend.

I  have never heard from either one of them since January 2008, neither Betty nor Jennifer even know of my leg losses.

I don't know what happened. I will never know what happened. This has troubled me for a few years now. I was speaking to Bill about this when it first happened and was blaming myself for the friendship loss. He asked, "Why are you blaming yourself?" "Do you feel that you did something to cause them to 'cut' you out of their lives?"

I have probably spent way too much energy on this loss of friendship and in spite of all the expended energy, I honestly do not know why our friendship ended, I haven't a clue. Losing  a friendship does not go easily for me, I greatly value friendship and mourn the loss of people who were friends, especially when I can't pinpoint the cause.

I have spoken to numerous people about this incident and everyone I have spoken with have themselves experienced a similar occurance. What do you suppose causes such things to occur? Do some people place less value on friendship than I?

Inexplicable friendship loss could have a few explainations. Perhaps you have done something to upset them and they won't let you know because the don't want to hurt your feelings. Another possible reason could be that you have overestimated the degree of friendship you felt existed between you and the other person.

In my case,  sometimes I wonder if it isn't medical issues that make some people feel uncomfortable. They don't know what to say or what to do, so the easiest way out is to just ignore the other person and thus eliminate the potential discomfort. I have been told by some friends that if that is the type of person they really are, than you don't need them in your life anyway.

Once again, the key to lasting friendship is continuous open communication. When people whom you consider to be your friend, all of a sudden distance themselves from you, for whatever reason, it becomes a self-perpetuating situation. Your "used to be" friend hasn't  called for example, all the while  they may be thinking , I should call them, however they don't take the time to do so. As time goes by, they feel gulity for not calling and can't really justify their not calling and so they never call out of embarassment, thus ending the  friendship.

I really find this type of behavior hard to understand, at least with regard to myself. I don't consider myself  a difficult person to talk to nor do I condiser myself unforgiving. I understand human nature and those who have felt uncomfortable  with dealing with my medical problems, but they need to understand that I am more than my medical issues.

If you are dealing with serious medical issues you should anticipate at least one or two of your former friends to alienate themselves from you. I know this is a sad truth. I take solace in the fact that almost all of the people I consider to be my friends are  still here for me.  I am thankful for them.

If you should find yourself being one of those people who find it hard to deal with a friend's medical problems, do them a favor and give them a call. Simply picking up the phone and voicing your support can make a real difference in their lives. Take it from me , I know, I live it everyday.

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