Monday, April 12, 2010

High School Friendships.....

I used to be one of those people like my aunt who feel they should stay connected with anyone and everyone they've ever met. I swear, my aunt still goes to spend weekends with people I think she went to elementary school with.

I have a couple of close friends from high school with whom I've maintained contact over the years. Four of us went to Charleston for a weekend and had a blast, but then one of us died suddenly four months later, so we've been a little reluctant to get together after that.

One of my friends from high school was a girl we will call "Heidi." She was the prettiest, most talented, most popular girl in middle school (only it was called intermediate school when we were there). The first time she called and wanted ME to spend the night at her house, my mother asked me if I had misunderstood. (Example #98155641 of my mother's sensitivity. Ranks right up there with buying me a bathroom scale for my birthday one year.)

But Heidi was a mess. She turned to drugs, stole money from the school (uhhh.....she was the student body treasurer), ran away, got sent to a boarding school for a while, was just generally a mess.

I ran for her student body office (and won), played in the band, was in the Beta club, honor graduate, went to college. I'm not saying I was sweet and innocent, because I was neither, but I just couldn't follow Heidi down that path.

She came to one of my bridal showers. She was married with a daughter, and when I opened her gift, there was no card attached. She claimed it, we all laughed, and then whoever was helping me with my gifts said, "Oh, here's the card" and pulled it out. Heidi ran across the room and grabbed the card, and there was an awkward moment as everyone realized she had regifted something, probably from when she got married herself. My heart hurt for her to think that she wanted to come to my shower so badly, but she probably didn't have money to buy a gift. I wasn't at all bothered by the regifting; I was embarrassed for HER. Hell, the casserole dish was new to me, so what did I care?

Heidi had a strong personality, and it still amazes me that I didn't follow in her footsteps. I wanted her approval, I wanted her looks, I wanted her singing voice. One year for my birthday when we were in about the eighth grade, we went shopping. She told me to sit outside while she went and bought my gifts. I never questioned her. I sat dutifully outside on the bench while she visited several stores.

My mother knew. She had an incredible insight about people and their behaviors, probably as the result of having raised my two brothers. Or perhaps she knew Heidi's kind. Or perhaps she automatically believed the worst of anyone. At any rate, it was years before I realized, or at least acknowledged to myself, that everything Heidi gave me for my birthday had been shoplifted.

We reestablished contact when Sweet Girl was 10. Heidi's girls were 8 and 12, and when we contacted one another we discovered that we lived about a mile and a half apart. Heidi had just gotten her girls back from her ex-husband, and she was at a loss as to what to do with them while they were out of school for the summer. You guessed it, since I was a teacher, I wound up babysitting them every day for the rest of the summer. Putting three prepubescent girls together was disastrous, and my Sweet Girl was right in the middle.

The next time I heard from Heidi was after Hubby and I married. First she made some judgmental comment about my having married Hubby, then she asked if I would take her to see her eldest daughter at the Regional Youth Detention Center. Do you detect a pattern here? A couple of patterns?

I didn't hear from her anymore until a little more than a year ago, when she tracked me down online. She had divorced and remarried, and we made arrangements for me to go see her.

She was/is still a mess. She is a trained surgical technician/nurse, but I think she lost her hospital job due to drug issues. I don't think she's been able to hold down a job since then. She mentioned getting a job in a doctor's office, but she left after only a day or so because they sprayed the building for insects, and she just couldn't take that.

Excuse me?

She called last week the day after my birthday, but we were at the baseball game so I didn't answer. She didn't have the day wrong, she had just been too busy moving the day before to call me. I called her back on Friday, and just carrying on a brief conversation with her exhausted me. She started telling me a story about the autistic son of a friend of her older sister's, and she was hysterical with laughter while she was trying to tell it. I never did understand what it was about. I don't know if it's still drugs, or if she just has mental issues now on TOP of the drugs. She has two grandchildren, and she was trying to tell me about them, but it was just too hard to follow her train of thought. When we started to hang up, she said "I love you" and I said "I love you too," but I felt guilty saying it. I don't even KNOW her to love her.

It feels a little ugly to me, but I simply cannot allow that friendship's embers to rekindle. It needs to die a peaceful death. She is needy even at the age of 50, and she has never been able to take care of herself. Oh, and it's never been her fault either. She is also a user, something it has taken me years to acknowledge. I don't like the fact that I allowed myself to be used by her. Again and again.

Do some people not have that external lens to view themselves as others see them? Or do they make it okay in their minds not ever to grow up, not ever to become responsible, not ever to take responsibility for their lives?

I think in some cases drifting apart is the best thing that can happen.


Maggie said...

What a sad story about Heidi. And yes, I do agree with you...sometimes they need to just end.....somehow.

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