I have made the sad decision to take down a photograph of an old friend and put it away. It is quite a monumental decision in my life since this is a person I have known since I was four years old. Here is the story of our friendship, and how I have come to this point in my life…
At four years old friends were hard come by, I lived in a country town, mostly populated with retirees or vacant holiday homes, I had only boys to play with, and these were boys that thought it would be fun to bite or spit (often on me) until at the birthday party for one of the boys I met (let’s call her) Holly, a girl, one year older than me. Not only were we girls excited, but our mothers were thrilled for us too.
We became the best of friends, not just through lack of choices, but because we were true kindreds… we loved spending time together, and when it was time for us to part, the person left behind would run down the street blowing kisses and waving until our friend’s car was out of sight.
I don’t need to tell you the amazing memories I have, of how we spent our time, how we played, sang, danced, jumped for joy together. I am sure you know what it is to have a best friend. I loved her! Then, as teenagers, she broke my heart.
Holly had a job, and worked hard at it during the school holidays. I rang her everyday, only to be told by her mother that she wasn’t home. Believe me, after several days I knew she would be at work when I rang, but I was bewildered at her never returning my calls. I thought it was rude, and it stung. I even wondered if her mother was telling her about my calls, because it was a totally alien experience to have no contact from my dear friend.
For my sixteenth birthday, I had the choice of spending time with many friends, but there was one who mattered to me above all, Holly, I wanted to spend time with Holly. I was missing her. We didn’t attend the same school, so weekends or holidays were everything to us… until she stopped initiating contact, or responding to contact made by me. When I asked her to spend time with me on my 16th birthday, I received the reply that she was going to be attending our friend’s little brother’s 6th birthday instead. It was like a slap in the face… I could not believe the pain. Not only did I end up spending my birthday alone, I did not so much as receive a card or a call from Holly.
The next time I tried to spend time with Holly, I was told she was too busy digging the hole for the swimming pool her family were installing. Yeah right… she was out in that yard manning a shovel!
At this point in time the only way I saw Holly at all was on the school bus each day, but she was no longer sitting with me or talking with me. So one afternoon, I got off at her stop, thinking maybe we could talk. What a kick in the guts, she didn’t even acknowledge me, just walked off in the direction of her home at a hurried pace. I was in agony, and I had a long and lonely walk home, since our stops were a couple of kilometres apart. I was bawling my eyes out…. I thought that was it, that was the end of our friendship, and believe me it hurt worse than being rejected by a guy.
For two years I carried that pain, not to mention the painful twelve months prior to that horrible afternoon. I had known the most amazing, beautiful, kind, loving person… and lost her without so much as a goodbye or any sign of consideration or respect. I could not understand what had happened. It is fair to say that at that age, I dwelt on it very much.
However, fate had not done with us yet… Holly had the most angelic mother, who taught both of us charity, love, and generosity… and I am ashamed of the days where I had once wondered whether she was keeping us apart… for it was Holly’s mother that brought us back together.
At 18, I was living in another city studying in my first year at university, and Holly was living away from home working, I believe she might have been lonely, and her mother was instrumental in encouraging Holly to write to me, having gotten my address from my parents.
That first letter when it arrived was the most amazing and welcome surprise, I was thrilled! It was tentative, and we had a lot of catching up to do, but by the time I was ready to move to Perth for my second year of university at a new campus, we were ready to spend time together.
Our friendship quickly prospered, we were comfortable sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings, all the details of our day or week, and had amazing fun together. It was a strong and loving friendship like we had enjoyed as children. I gave my thanks to God and to Holly’s mother many times.
I can also appreciate the bigger picture… for we had reunited with just enough time to be strong together when Holly received news that her mother had cancer, her second bout with this deadly and cruel disease. As it turned out, I was there to be Holly’s closest friend when her mother passed away. We were only 18 and 19 years old, and Holly and I moved in together for six months after this wonderful woman passed away.
During the wake for her mother, Holly and I laid on her bed holding hands… it does not get closer than that. I thought for sure, this time our friendship would never be torn asunder.
For a few years we were close, though the phone calls and get togethers started to be more spread out. We made a conscious effort to meet monthly as we had our own busy lives as young adults. Holly even got engaged, built a house with her partner and planned her wedding.
Here… there was some trouble. I blame myself for this one thing… I did not ask Holly if I could be her bridesmaid. I find asking to be sort of rude…after all, Holly has so many girlfriends, they can’t all be bridesmaids… it is better to let a person ask you to be in their wedding party, that way there is no pressure on them. I can see this was probably a mistake on my part! But we had grown up assuming we would be there for each other on our wedding days, I did not think it needed to be spoken. Perhaps Holly was insecure about this failure of mine to ask, for she never raised the issue. And at a certain point it became too difficult for me to ask, not only to be her bridesmaid, but at a certain point the more relevant question would have been who had she chosen to be in her wedding party! To this day I don’t know how she thinks or feels about this (though I can imagine) and she has never asked how I think or feel about it.
I was too proud to ask, and she must have been too proud also.
So I attended her wedding and looked at the program, oh, that’s who she chose!
As you can see, there was obviously a chasm forming.
The last time I physically saw Holly, was by accident, running into her at the mall. At the time I had some serious health concerns, I was actually midway through a radioactive contrast test, due to return for the second part of the test in just two hours. I shared this with Holly, and she shared that there was a possibility that she and her new husband would be moving down south.
I sent Holly copies of photographs I had taken at her wedding, and also a birthday card. I received nothing in return, and I have never even seen her wedding album.
At Christmas I ran into her father, who told me she and her partner had in fact made the move down south. I smiled and made small talk. I was too hurt inside to show the pain of not being contacted by Holly, or informed of her new address or phone number. I also felt that her dad would not like to hear that she had moved without telling me. It just seems so cruel. I didn’t want him to know that she had done something like that.
So for the second time, my heart was truly broken by my precious friend. I can see that my actions probably had a role in our drifting apart… I can see how I might have made her feel, but I have to say, I don’t think she gives any consideration to how her actions may have made me feel. My way is to look all around at every possibility and analyze everything… but I do believe that my friend has not looked at this from my side.
At any rate, for the next few years I kept the photograph of my friend and I taken at her 21st birthday party on display in my room. I kept it as I always had hope for us. I knew that if she ever needed me, I’d be there for her. I loved her still. Even though she broke my heart.
Joining facebook, a few years ago now, I was busy reconnecting with many old friends, and I was very keen to reconnect with Holly. I could not find her on facebook, but I found her husband and sister… which eventually lead to a phonecall between Holly and I. It was of course, a little awkward, and we were not able to speak as freely as we had in the past, but I had every intention of rebuilding that bond. I had hope, even though we had little contact. When Holly did join facebook I accepted her friendship, and would comment on the beautiful photographs of her child.
However, it has been through facebook that I have found myself realizing there is little hope for a reconnection. When I comment on a person’s photograph on facebook, saying lovely things about their family or pet, I receive a thank you, or a return comment on something from my own life…. when I comment on Holly… I receive nothing. If she has a bad day and a friendly, supportive comment is in order, I supply it… again, nothing in return. No acknowledgement of any kind. No matter what our history, I find this is plain rude. Even more painful for me is the contrast between Holly and her sister. I get the loveliest comments and interaction with her younger sister on facebook, giving me delight, but also pain, as I see her kindness and can’t help feeling the emotional daggers of neglect from Holly. Our own family tragedy early last year brought nothing from Holly, after all that I have supported her through, and yet her sister gives to me the consideration and empathy that any decent human being would give.
That’s it… Holly is simply not that giving, loving person that she appears. I have to accept it. I have to accept that the friendship is dead. That it was never equal, that I must have loved her more than she ever loved or valued me. That as much as I would be there for Holly if she were in need… she won’t ever consider coming to me in need… she will turn to anyone else but not me.
And that photo on display in my home is hurting me far too much to keep it there for another ten years. It has to go today. I have to accept the death of the friendship and move on.
So today, I take down the picture of an old friend, and put it out of sight.