Monday, February 20, 2006

Just Thinking Out Loud

Ten years ago around this time I was addressing wedding invitations and I decided not to invite a friend. He wasn't returning my telephone calls and I assumed he was being a dickhead. This was uncharacteristic behavior for him and I knew he received my messages because his roommate confirmed it. So this friend was moved from the category of "friend" to that of "dickhead." My wedding came and went and I was so preoccupied with all the things going on in my own life, I didn't give him much thought. Two weeks after my first wedding anniversary I was sitting in the back row of a church staring into a sea of gray and white and blue and bald heads. My friend's funeral was packed with his parent's friends and probably every able-bodied senior citizen from his tiny hometown. Aside from the two friends who made the trip to Pennsylvania with me, there was only one other peer in attendence.

It wasn't just me he cut off from his life. It was most of his friends. I might have discovered this if I bothered to ask around. If I was persistent enough, I also might have discovered from the couple friends he kept close that he was dying of AIDS.

For years I've carried around a lot of guilt for thinking so negatively about him. For not making more of an effort. For being so petty and not even sending him an invitation.

I snubbed a dying friend for not returning 4 or 5 telephone calls.

But now I'm wondering if it wasn't better that way -- the way my friend seemed to prefer. Maybe he only had so much energy and inclination to deal with those closest. Maybe he wouldn't have appreciated my raising the flag to others. Maybe a wedding invitation would be one more hassle for him to figure out how to avoid.

Maybe this has very little to do with my friend at all. It's not like if I knew I could have done anything to prevent him dying. It's unlikely I there was anything I could do to "ease" his pain. I probably would have been sad and uncomfortable around him had I known -- maybe I would have been way more trouble than I was worth.

At the furneral -- among all those old people I wondered where on Earth were all of his friends, his fraternity brothers, the scores of people who would show up at his parties -- and I realized most of them probably had no idea at that point he died -- my major realization was the world is not divided into "friend" and "dickhead" and I was a very simple and self-absorbed person for considering it that way.

And now I wonder that in my attempts not be that same ninny, maybe I spend too much time thinking and mulling over all the possibilities and what-ifs -- perhaps this is just more about it being all about me. In my attempts to confer with others to get their takes and advice on situations, maybe I'm just using it as an excuse not to take full responsibility for own actions. "We all thought . . ." feels a lot better than "But I thought . . ."

See, I never want to have that "I should have done something (more) or (different)" feeling when it comes to family and friends. But how do you never screw up? And if I'm so occupied with not "feeling" a certain way -- how can I possibly figure out what the best thing really is?


At 12:39 AM, Blogger C. Dale said...

You are only human. We all have moments we wish we could have done differently. When death is involved, it only heightens the regret. You learned someting from this. That is the best thing that came out of it. You grew as a person.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Julie Carter said...

'See, I never want to have that "I should have done something (more) or (different)" feeling when it comes to family and friends.'

When my father died, I was filled with regrets. He had been diagnosed with lupus, probably caused by one of his medications, but he never followed up and got the medication switched. I saw him every day and didn't pester him about it. I saw him the day he died. Did the lupus contribute to his stroke? It could have. And I knew better, but did nothing.

I guess what I'm saying is that avoiding regrets is pretty hard, perhaps impossible. You thought worse of a friend that he deserved. I didn't do all I could for my father. It sounds like you've learned from your regret. I really haven't managed to learn anything from mine.

Best wishes.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger 32poems said...

It sounds like you learned something that a lot of people never learn. The world is about us AND it's about others. I used to do the same thing...until I realized that we all have a lot going on.

Recently, I read about "naikun" (not sure if I spelled it right) which is a Japanese practice of recognizing the gifts others give us. Even the most difficult person has provided us with a gift of some kind. When I add it all up, I am grateful to the people around me and find that I've received a lot -- from everyone.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Herm Melville said...

This is why you have to envy the fatalists.


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