Friday, October 29, 2010

People and Friendship

People are such complex creatures. I think I have given up on them. Oh, not the observations of them, but connecting on an intimate level. As much as I value friendships I have learned over the years that they are, at best, very fragile, at worst, one sided. As I am sure most of us have, in one way or another, I seem to have a fair amount of experience in this. I have to wonder if I have just gone through life choosing the wrong friends, or being chosen by them.

Take for instance the woman, a long ago neighbour, who, when her children became full time students in grade school, she wanted to go back to school herself, to upgrade her education then go to nursing school. We talked about it a lot over morning coffee at my kitchen table, once our offspring had got on the school bus. I was all for it and encouraged her. Her husband didn't like change and did his best to discourage her. Well she did decide in favour of it, afterall she needed to feel like she was doing something with her life, aside from cooking and cleaning and taking care of two kids that were now out of the house all day long.

Two weeks later I had not heard anything from her, so I knocked on her door one afternoon when I knew that she was done classes for the day, just to see how she was enjoying it. She snarled at me that she quit, slammed the door in my face and that was the end of that friendship.

Or how about the one that introduced me to a single male friend. She was then married and, by her defintion we were closer than sisters. I was single and had no clue. She thought that he and I would hit it off and she was right. We did. Until a couple of months into the relationship, when he dropped the bomb and told me the reason she wanted us to get together. I was to be the shield, the alibi. Her intention was to carry on an affair with him. If her husband discovered she was spending time with the man she could say that she was just having a conversation with my boyfriend and all would be ok. When I finally had the courage to ask her about it I heard that I was dangerous and that we could no longer be friends. Another one bites the dust. The relationship ended as well.

Or how about the woman that became, in her words, my best friend shortly after my husband passed away. They had known each other but I didn't know her, not really, until after. I do, in retrospect, recall him telling me things that should have warned me not to trust her, but I was in a vulnerable spot and trust her I did. I phoned her one morning, she must have had company because she said she didn't have time to talk to me and, before she got her phone hung up I heard her tell whoever was there that this pest was on the phone and she wished I wouldn't call her. Best friends???? Wow!

Now I seem to have come to the end of another friendship, one that has lasted more than 20 years. But again in hindsight, was it ever really a friendship? The problem with the end of this one is that I am also losing countless others along with her.

So what's the scoop with this one? Again, she was someone that befriended me shortly after I became a widow. For years she has told me that she needed to "mother me". Really? I didn't think I needed mothering, just friendship was all I ever wanted. For years now I have wondered about this relationship. She used to call me every day, it has trickled down to a couple of times a month now. And I would visit regularly. In fact for a time she had me over for dinner at least once a week. Our conversations mainly consisted of her telling me her "stuff", complaints about her husband, her finances, health issues, or talk about "my best friend" so and so, and "my closest" long time friend so and so. What am I? Did I need to have it pointed out that I am a lesser friend? And why could I never talk about my "stuff"?  Is it less important? To her it is, of course, but is it less important for me to have someone I can talk to than it is for her? Why was I always shut up? Whenever I tried to talk about what was going on with me the topic was taken over and I would hear yet another segment of her life.

Recently she was taking care of emptying a house for an elderly woman friend who resided in a nursing home. The house was to be sold but the contents, furniture and all, were given to her, to keep or dispose of as she wished. Nice. Oh, she earned it, she ran errands for the woman, took her out for lunches and shopping, took care of the woman's mail and laundry, and checked on the house regularly while it sat empty for years before the decision was made to dispose of it. She was also paid quite well for doing it. She made it a point to brag to me about the cheques she got from the woman, almost every month, and always the amount was in four figures. I wish I could find a gig like that.

One day while I was at the house with her another young couple that had been invited came along and picked out anything that they wanted to take for themselves. On the side my "friend" whispered that "it's too bad there is no monetary value". NO MONETARY VALUE?????? Huh???? She refurnished her own house out of the place, was well paid for taking care of things, and got a hefty sum (five figures) when the house was sold for doing the clean out. Wow!! That comment completely floored me. I have had a lot of trouble digesting it and trying to come back from it, but I am not sure that I ever can. It has put my friend in a whole different light. Do the words opportunist and greed come to mind?

Oh, I might add here that I was also invited to the house to pick out anything that I want. It happens that the old lady also became my friend, as much as I could get away with. She was protected by our mutual friend though. So much for picking out anything I wanted from the place though. Every item I said I would like, or could use, was off limits, so and so already asked for that, or, this item was reserved pending evaluation, it might be worth a lot of money. I ended up with two little scarves and an old retro chair that we are all afraid to use. It feels like it will break when you sit on it. Oh, and let's not forget the old drill that doesn't work and some plastic flower pots and peat pellets for starting seeds.

My opinion has changed drastically. Once I thought of her as my best friend. Then eventually developed the question - is she really my friend or am I her friend? It was feeling like a one way, dead end street.  There are other folks I met through her and thought I had become friends with. Even that, in recent years, has been destroyed. I was warned not to talk to a husband of one because the wife would not understand. Excuse me but I knew the wife years before, she had worked with my late husband, she knows I am not a threat to her, good grief. And at our age I am not exactly out to grab someone's man.

Yes, people are complicated. Now I am faced with the possibility of some serious health issues. Yes I did tell her that I am going for a biopsy and that I am nervous about it. No, not the biopsy procedure but the end result. Funny, she's too busy to talk to me now.

Ah, I wonder if friendship is, after all, overated.