Saturday, August 18, 2007

What Value Friendship?

I'm not sure why I'm blogging this other than I need to vocalise my inadequacy. I have a school friend. We were very close from 16 - 25 when we sort of moved our separate ways. She did a year 12 exchange in New York State so started Uni a year later than us which meant we saw less of her after we graduated. We caught up occasionally as kids came along and ran into each other every few years at weddings and anniversaries. We always knew where each other was but didn't socialise too much.

The last time I saw her was at the Piazza in Castle Hill about 4 years ago. Thommo and I were having lunch and in strolled Max. Looking the same as she had in year 12, now a Vice Principal at a local selective high school and doing really well. She's now 50 with an 18 year old and a 13 year old . . . last week another distant school friend called me and told me that Max's partner had mysteriously died in Peru! This particular person was more on a fishing trip than acting out of concern, hoping I could solve the mystery of how he died. She's recently 'found God' and turned into an evangelical do gooder and inevitable busy body and serial gossip. I shan't call her with the truth.

He was a bit of an adventurer. Often took students into the wild and woolly parts of the universe. Alternative - he mowed the lawn in a Samoan skirt and cooked the best Sri Lankan Lamb I've ever tasted. I met him only twice over the past 18 years - a solitary partner who made himself scarce when the girls got going. Sadly, I haven't seen Max since that lunch despite promises to keep in touch. Today, I had to face the music and call her. I felt like a fairweather friend, calling her after all this time just because Olaf had passed. His body is still in Peru and she has the awful task of arranging for his return to Australia - dealing with immigration - the behemoth of beaurocracy that it is as well as dealing with a prolonged grief between his death and the kind of closure that is offered by a funeral. Apparently, there was a gas leak from his tent lamp and this otherwise healthy 55 year old, died in his sleep in the wilds of the Andes. What do you say? How do you soothe someone who has to cope with the death of a partner AND bring his body home. Grief is something I can helpwith but this!

I've experienced loss before and I know that the well-meaning wishes of friends and acquaintances are genuine but I just felt so awful contacting her after all this time . . . at this time. I wish I was just inviting her to lunch or having a friendly catch up. She was grateful I think and when the dust settles, the funeral's over, I'll contact her again. When tragedy strikes, there are many people around to bolster your spirits but 12 months down the track . . . it's a different story. Not that people don't care, they do, but life goes on and there's no time for maudlin over the past. I really appreciate those friends who have stuck by me even though I've been a widow for many, many years . . . but the fair-weather ones . . .the ones that bring loads of support and food to your house between the death and the funeral as if you're incapable of making beans on toast . . . the ones that offer to babysit so you can have some free time (Free time . . you need that like a hole in the head!). The ones who buy the most expensive flowers or pretend to be genuinely concerned, the ones that reminisce about the last 2 years they knew your dear departed. . . they seem to fade into the distance. It's too hard to have 7 people for dinner or a theatre booking for 13 . . that odd number really causes them angst. I'm not saying they don't care because I don't know. But I'm not going to be like that. 12 months down the track, Max will need friends and I'll be there for her but for now . . . she's got enough support. It was one of the most difficult phone calls I've made in ages but I think it was appreciated and it brought this old battle axe to tears but hopefully will lead to a rekindling of a friendship that goes way back to creature features on Saturday night, smoking a joint and eating left over KFC chicken wings. Trips to her family farm in the country and rounding cows up on motor bikes. Languid holidays at Crescent Head where the object of the game was to pash some handsome surfer. Trips to Canberra to visit a mutual friend and welcomes home after long holidays away . . . we have history and hopefully that will be enough to keep her going when the hullaballo dies down. Love you Max. I know you don't read this but I know where you are right now and I wouldn't want to be there again for all the tea in China.

1 comment:

Grannymar said...

Someone once told me "The phone calls dry up after three weeks" and they were sooo right.

In thos early weeks numbness takes over. It is in the months when the numbness has gone, that you need REAL friends. The friends who find time for you without having to check their calendar.