Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Friendships, I have Neglected You

It's been almost five months since I signed up for Facebook. I figured that the only 'friends' I would have would be blogger friends and some of the younger members of the Wife's family. What was unexpected to me were the high school classmates that I hadn't heard from for almost 28 years. More unexpected was the conflicted feeling this brought.

Thinking about it a bit, I shouldn't really be surprised with the conflict I felt. My history of staying in contact with schoolmates, dorm mates, and co-workers has been rocky, all the fault of myself. You see, I'm not a very good friend when it comes to separation. As soon as a friend has left, no matter how close I was to that friend, I almost hostilely push them out of my mind.

The first time I can remember, but I'm sure there were other instances earlier, was a friend in grade school in Guatemala. I'll use his initials, PH. We were pretty good friends. I would say we were pretty close. But, like most of my early friends in Guatemala, he moved away when his parents were reassigned. A few years later his dad came back to Guatemala, for business and PH came with him. When he showed up at school, what did I do? I pretty much gave him the cold shoulder and hardly acknowledge his existence. I remember him walking away muttering something in the F.U. vein which I deserved in spades.

When I left for college my friends and I scattered all over the U.S.A. I had the addresses of many and for the first semester or so I wrote letters furiously in what I though was an attempt to stay in contact but in fact I was hard core homesick and the letters I would receive back calmed my fears somewhat. Over time I'm sure most of my ex-classmates got fed up with the barrage of letters I was sending and the replies became fewer and more rare. I became stubborn. I would not write if they didn't write first. By the end of my first year, I can't remember for sure when, the letter writing faded into non-existence. I was bitter and self-righteous.

In college I made new friends. Some were older than me and graduated a year or two ahead of me. When one returned a few years later talking about his amazing job working with computers and stuff, I gave him the minimum attention I had. I bet he wondered what the hell was my problem. I kind of felt a little guilty - I should have felt a lot guilty - but I haven't kept in touch with anyone from collage except for one.

My best friend from college, BP, graduated the same year that I did. We went our separate ways but, through a little effort on both our parts, we were able to maintain a tenuous link through e-mail. We never talked enough though. He went to Taiwan, taught English, and met his wife there. He attended my wedding. Last I heard he lived in Minneapolis with his Wife and son. His last e-mail was March 2002. I never responded.

I started working for the Navy back in 1987. From 1987 to 2003 I was in the same group of great guys. We worked together, got each other's jokes, and fought like banshees together. We were damn close. In 2003 forces beyond our control broke up our group and we were dispersed throughout the warfare center. I use the term dispersed but in fact we were not that far apart - five minute walk across the parking lot at most. We did get together for lunch a couple of times but even that kind of died out. My new job kept me busy and I never seemed to have the time to visit. That of course is just a lame excuse I told myself. I discovered at my retirement party that one of my friends thought I didn't what to socialize with them. Looking back, I understand why he had that impression. I didn't try so why should he?

Then I joined Facebook. When I got the first friend invitation from a high school classmate my first reaction was Wow! My second reaction was oh sh!t. Why this second reaction? No idea. It's like I'm afraid of old friendships. We've exchanged a few e-mails but I know my replies have been a little curt. (Sorry R.P.) I want to know what they're up to without being committed. That's not friendship, that's voyeurism.

My longest friendships have been internet friendships. Friendships that never existed in the real world. It seems that if I have no reality to miss, I can maintain the friendship. Weird huh? That, of course, could be the great thing about Facebook, at least for me. I can 'convert' all my old friendships into into internet friendships and maybe then I can keep it going. Who knows, maybe I can go back the other way once I ween myself from my crappy behavior.

My most enduring, non-familial, on again off again, friendship was with a girl that I'll call Janice (not her real name but we called her that because she looked like another girl named Janice - weird, I don't remember much about the original Janice). She was a year or two behind me in high school. I remember her sitting in empty classrooms between periods reading in a corner or by a window. The most I ever said to her was "Hi Janice" when we walked into the room. On my last day of high school she stepped out of her classroom and handed me a scrap of paper. It had her address on it. When I got to college I wrote to her. I guess you could call our penpal friendship sort of an early blogging. The correspondence started and stopped several times. Sometimes started by me, sometimes by Janice. It lasted through my college years. It lasted briefly in the 90s (I think it was the 90s, not sure). It was never really ended. It would just fade and would start up again when we were ready to talk. Janice is now on Facebook and once again, we are reconnected. I guess it lasted so long because of the internet-like nature of our communication.

So, after reading this ungodly diatribe, I hope any of you readers who have been my friend in the past find it in your heart to forgive me. I sometimes treated you wrong and I am truly sorry. I do want to be your friend. I just need to get over myself and be the friend you deserve.

3 comments:

  1. After reading this my first thought was about the fact that, growing up, it seems so easy. You see each other at school every day, it's easy to hang out after school, and weekends are free of anything else because, well, hell, you're in high school. Then you get older, work at different places, move to different places, and it all becomes more work. The effort is definitely worth it, but it's effort nonetheless.

    Which is why I'm sure that some of my best friendships will happen when I'm in the nursing home someday!

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  2. It's strange that this post showed up on the day I learned of a high school classmate's death. Not someone I was close to, not somebody I've thought about much, if at all, in the last 37 (!) years, but it does make you think.

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  3. GH: It was easier in when we were young but then I look at the Wife and her Brother who can strike up a conversation and practically have a new friend by the time they part ways. I'm terrible with getting close.

    BM: Yes it does. Facebook, by reintroducing me to old acquaintances, has made me think a lot.

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