I pore over the relationships that have dissolved since I moved to Indianapolis five years ago. I realize that I am the common denominator, so I have to look inward to place blame. Maybe I wasn’t nice enough. Maybe I wasn't entertaining enough. Maybe I wasn’t supportive enough. Maybe I was, in fact, around too much. Or maybe I'm just aging and going through changes.
I can’t really find the part of me that is so hard to love, to be around, or even to like. But, with the demise of a long-term relationship each year for the past five years, I sometimes struggle not to feel that I am worth only a click of a telephone.
Five years ago, my father’s wife told me that she would appreciate it if my son (who was twelve at the time) and I didn’t visit as often because we were causing a strain on her relationship with my father. She offered no further explanation and I was unclear on what questions I could have asked. That Thanksgiving, my father’s wife was asked by a friend of mine to chip in on an airline ticket that she, along with four other friends, were surprising me with to fly my son from Memphis to Indianapolis to see our new house (we were broke and temporarily separated due to the move). My father’s wife declined and sent a scathing reply email about how rude it was to even be asked. They have scads of money and the amount requested was $40.
Four years ago, my son and I met my father and his wife at a restaurant for a 90-minute holiday dinner on December 27th. That holiday season, my father’s wife had asked me in email where my son was going for Christmas. I told her he was going to Atlanta with his father and she told my father that he was going to Memphis. I didn’t know about the “miscommunication” until my father mentioned it at dinner, because he had not asked us about any plans. This was the first year I stayed home alone on Christmas. I have to say I kind of enjoyed it.
Three years ago, a ten-year friendship ended. I visited Atlanta for a week-long Christmas holiday and called my friend, who I had talked to regularly but hadn’t seen in three years, to have lunch or dinner. She never called back. I assumed she didn’t get the message and kept trying to reach her. When we finally did connect on the phone, she explained that she had just broken up with her boyfriend (she is fifty years old) and could not stop crying. He would call periodically to check on her and she really needed to be at home in case he wanted to stop by. It hurt my feelings, but I got over it. The next year, I would find out that they were back together and he was married with two small children and, when the wife had found out about them right before Christmas, he had chosen to break off the relationship. But because of her pitiful behavior, they had reconciled and she “was never so happy”. This front-row Christian had total disregard for the family or the children. We broke up when, as a parent, I couldn’t stop myself from expressing my opinion that her age (and history of doing this before) should indicate that she should know better. She hung up. Click.
That same year, my father invited us for Christmas - I thought in an effort to make amends for the year before. He told us to come any day and stay as long as we could. A few days later, his wife emailed to tell me that he must have forgotten, but that they had plans for Christmas. My father called to confirm, and I quote because I will never forget, “I didn’t know. We are going to visit family for Christmas, but you guys could still come after Christmas and stay for a while, if you still can.” I could but I didn’t. One more click would come.
Two years ago, my father called at Christmas (he has impeccable timing for ruining this time of year) to let me know that he had updated his will to include two executors. For years, his will has declared that if his wife survives him, everything goes to her. And then, after she dies, my son and I get a percentage (she has two grown children) of what is left. I only had one question. “Why do you now need two executors for one joint will?” To which he replied, “Look. I don’t think you want to open up that can of worms. She has been nothing but good to you.” I will never understand and my heart screamed in agony. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was DONE.
Click. This leaves me with no family at all, but I will never deal with this relationship again. It was a momentary relief from a life-long injury.
Last year, a ten-year friendship ended with a fizzle. This friend and I had been growing apart for over a year anyway. She had not asked me anything about myself or my life in months. It took a long time, but I did finally get the hint. In our last conversation at Christmas, she didn’t remember several major life events that we had discussed at length earlier that year, including my son getting his driver’s license and getting a car. I knew then that this was to be our last conversation. Click.
And just last week, a twenty-five year friendship ended with my friend hanging up. I have always known that one of the rules for anyone to be in relationship (including her husband) with this friend is to never question or disagree with anything she says or does. I’ve worked around it for years. She and her husband, after years of financial difficulties, are expanding their advertising agency by selling web ad space and award plaques to businesses who are “Rated Best Of” in the city in which they live. I was extremely excited and supportive, until I eventually figured out that there is a catch. They cold call potential customers from a mailing database they purchased online. These businesses aren’t rated at all. When I asked for clarification – thinking I must have something wrong - she said that she was asked that all the time and, at first also thought it was wrong (she is a front-row, Bible thumpin’, self-professed “born-again” Christian) until her husband explained that the advertising business just works this way. “It’s all a scam,” she explained. I asked where the term “false advertising” came from, but she didn’t hear me. She said she had to go and hung up. Twenty-five years. Click.
I know I’m sensitive. And maybe I'm just being pitifully dramatic. I know all human relationships are conditional and they can come and go with changing circumstances. Relationships end. Friendships end. Lots of families suck. Life goes on. We move on. We change. We make new friends who fit us better and stay for the season in which they are needed. Perhaps I made bad choices in the first place. To be honest, I know I would not choose these relationships (especially the one with my father) now, in this season of my life. I'm actually proud of my principles.
But it still hurts. I am sad for the loss and will grieve for a while longer. I know Time will show me what was my fault and what I should have done differently. I hope Time will teach me to be a better friend and to make better choices. I know I will always have a tendency to think myself unworthy, but I hope Time changes that and has new friends for me. In the words of The Rain King: 'cause I've been here before and I do deserve a little more.