I have a confession to make: I am a terrible friend.
I realized this the other day when I received a Christmas card in the mail from a friend who I haven’t been in contact with for nearly two years.
He doesn’t generally send out Christmas cards, but I had a pretty good idea that I’d be receiving one from him this year because he recently messaged my wife on Facebook and asked for our address. This makes sense because he had no idea where we are living and he is aware that I do not do Facebook. I suppose he could have emailed me, as my email address has not changed. He may not have it in his computer’s address book, though.
The last time my friend contacted my wife on Facebook to ask for our address was because he wanted to send us a wedding invitation. We were unable to attend the wedding due to the distance involved, but we did send a gift. I hope he received it. I wouldn’t know, as we never received any kind of acknowledgment.
Of course, I could have called him to ask whether he and his wife received our gift. But I didn’t. I figured it didn’t really matter. Usually, when you send something, it does arrive. So I’d just make him feel bad about not sending a thank-you note, and I wasn’t about to do that. I always hated being forced to write thank-you notes as a kid (usually for gifts I didn’t even like) and there is no way that I am going to hold against someone the fact they choose not to participate in this outdated social nicety.
As I see it, there isn’t anything all that unusual about losing touch with someone for two years or even a whole lot longer. I’ve always believed that it’s a natural thing for friendships to wax and wane; people come into our lives and go out of them and sometimes return again. We all have our own problems to handle and staying in contact with old friends and acquaintances is not necessarily a priority. I’m not going to give you an autograph book to sign “2 sweet 2 b forgotten” and vow to be your BFF on Facebook. I graduated from junior high a long time ago.
We need to accept that life has its ebb and flow. We need to ride those waves rather than becoming sucked into the mire of the past.
However. . . It is just possible that this attitude is one of the reasons that I have very few friends. Despite the fact that I write a blog that is shared with people who live in countries I’ve barely heard of on the other side of the world, I am basically an introverted person who does his own thing and doesn’t feel the need for regular socializing.
My wife, on the other hand, has what I suspect is a more healthy approach to friendships. She has friends from one end of the country to the other. I’m not just talking about sending messages on Facebook, either. They may be 3,000 miles away, but my wife and her friends still call each other during the day, during breaks at work, during the evening commute, on weekends.
I’ve wondered for a while whether some of this dichotomy may be attributed to the gender divide. I pondered about this in “On Friendship,” one of my very early posts to this blog.
But if I am to be perfectly honest with myself, I must admit that I am a terrible friend.
You think I’m kidding? As if not contacting my friend for two years isn’t bad enough, when I did receive his card and letter, he started out his message by informing me of his recent separation and impending divorce.
Okay, now I feel like a crud for sure.
I am tempted to make myself feel better by saying, hey, he could have called or emailed me to let me know what was going on. If he wanted advice or sympathy or another opinion or just a listening ear, he could have called or emailed me.
But I’d be fooling myself by taking this approach. The real truth is that I would have known what was going on if I had made even the slightest effort to keep in touch. And this I did not do.
Sure, this is a friend who asked for my address once to announce his wedding and a second time to announce his divorce. But at least he felt enough of a connection to me to share these life-changing events.
I like to think that distance is a factor. For four years, we lived in the same city and met over a Scrabble board nearly every week. We made more than a few out-of-state road trips together. But then I lost my job and had to move eight hours away when I found another one. Now we live only about 3½ hours apart, but that is still too much of a distance for a normal relationship.
Or is it? This takes me back to my wife’s friends on the other side of the country who call her on their lunch breaks or while driving home from work.
I don’t know whether the error of my ways is a man thing or an introvert thing or just a me-being-an-ass thing. But I do know that there has to be a better way.
So I hope I can somehow make this right. Within an hour of reading my friend’s letter, I sat down and wrote him back. And I plan to visit him next week.
This can never make up for my two-year absence, but at least it’s a start.
Lewis, you have the address of this blog now. I hope you read this post.