I was making room in our van for my son’s stinky hockey equipment. It was twenty pound bag of pure putrid odor. That’s when my husband introduced me to the mom of another team mate. We chatted it up like we’d known each other for years. We were probably both intoxicated by the hockey bag stench. Beth and I quickly became friends. Our husband’s served on the board of directors for the team, so we had many nights together drinking wine and laughing, while we figured out parenthood.
A few years later, our son made a higher ranked team and Beth arrived at my door in tears, “We’re going to lose touch. I just know it.” We didn’t and continued our friendship for many more years. We were the kind of friends who could tell what the other was thinking or feeling at any given moment. “I’m fine,” was never an acceptable answer. We knew when something was going on with each other.
And then our friendship shifted. Beth’s husband thought she and I were closer than they were as a couple. He was feeling left out. It seemed Beth was changing and standing her ground more and he was not happy about it. I thought she was spreading her wings. The first night I met Beth she asked if I need a good therapist. As women, we encourage each other to fly (not necessarily the coop) and grow. I had no idea that Bill was so upset with her growth spurts.
One day we were driving in a snow storm and she said quietly, “I used to be good friends with Bill’s cousin, but he didn’t like that we were close. He made me stop being friends with her.” I was shocked. “What? That’s crazy! His own cousin? He can be such a jerk!” Then she stared out the window and said, “I think that’s going to happen with us soon.”
I couldn’t believe her words. “How can that happen if we don’t let it?” I asked. “We’re grown women! We can choose our own friends without a husband’s approval, right?” I asked.
“We’re supposed to be friends until we’re in our eighties. In ten years we’ll have grandbabies to take to the park together. We’ve got this all planned.” I dismissed the entire idea as ludicrous.
Seriously, I dismissed what she was telling me was about to happen. It was unfathomable.
The following week, I didn’t hear from Beth. That was unusual because we usually talked a few times a week. When I picked up the phone to call her, my husband said, “Why don’t you wait for her to call you. It seems like you reach out more lately.” I grumbled and said, “Fine. She’ll call tonight. Wait and see.” The call never came.
Her visits stopped. Her funny notes stopped. I was shocked to say the least. This was impossible that after years of being closer than sisters, we are no longer in each other’s lives. I called and suggested we meet for dinner. If awkward had a name it would be Anne and Beth at dinner that night. It was the most uncomfortable feeling. How do you go from being so close to being so very far away? We never discussed it. We did agree that the bread was the freshest we’ve ever eaten. We were a shell of our old selves.
There was no invitation to the annual Christmas party that year. I wasn’t included in the girls getaway weekend trip. I was invisible and very sad. I guess I wanted to believe that she had the strength to stand up to her husband and make her own choices. She had to live with him and I understood that. It didn’t make it any less painful.
A few years later, I heard from Beth. She and Bill had divorced. She and her new boyfriend were coming south for a weekend. Could they stay with us? My first thought was, “I’m not so sure about this.” But it was good to hear from her, so I agreed. We have a guest house out back so they had their privacy.
There were hugs, hellos and introductions. We headed out to watch a sunset and my husband planned to meet us at the beach bar. For about six minutes, things were good, then the awkward bug bit me hard. I didn’t want to be there and fake nice. It still hurt and I really wanted to just go home. My husband arrived and cheered things up. The music was good and the sunset spectacular. I began to feel more at ease with him there.
I guess this is one of those life lessons. We all laugh. We all cry. We all get hurt sometimes. I’m not in junior high, so I should be better at this stuff. It took a few days to sort my feelings out. We never did discuss our “breakup” so to speak. We were good friends for each other for a long time and then we weren’t.
We hugged goodbye like acquaintances. I was miserable. It made me miss our old selves even more. I didn’t like our new selves’ one single bit.
That old song is right, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”