Tag Archives: Missouri

Make new friends, but keep all of the old? Maybe not …

From Dreamstime.com

There are always two sides to every story.

When I was 16 and my brother – my younger brother – pushed me into the couch and I hit it in just the right spot to break three ribs, what never came out when I told the story to my friends was that I had patiently waited for him to get off the couch so I could steal his seat. When he came back we argued –  because we were teenagers and that’s what we did – and when I stood up he simply pushed me back down. Crack.

When my daughter, then 3, would come crying to me because her brother pushed her or knocked her down, I didn’t know until I went to talk to my son that it was because she stood in the middle of the area where he was playing blocks or driving his Matchbox cars and then kicked all of his toys around.

Little Red Riding Hood would most certainly have a different version of what happened that day in the woods than would the Big Bad Wolf.

And when you hear, “People come into your life for a reason,” you never think that people also leave your life for a reason.

But they do.

Anyone who knows me or who has been a regular reader of this blog (or both) knows that we moved around a lot when I was growing up – and by “a lot” I mean that by the time I graduated from high school we had lived in 13 different houses in five different states. We weren’t gypsies or transients or, as one friend often accuses, in witness protection. My dad simply got bored sitting in one place too long. As a result I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. And while it was tough leaving friends behind, it was always good to make new ones.

I’ve carried that with me through my adult years. In college I think I lived someplace new every semester, and in the (gulp) 23 years since the longest time I’d spent in any one house was the one I bought after my divorce in 2002 – and we moved out of that one two years ago.

I’ve never really had a problem making friends – again, those who know me know I’m not shy. Growing up it was never really hard to “clean out the bad,” either, because if I waited long enough we’d move and those I didn’t want to keep in touch with just faded into the sunset. (Unfortunately many I did want to keep in touch with faded, as well, but thanks to Facebook and social media  I’ve reconnected with many of them.)

As an adult, cleaning that closet is a bit more difficult. I can’t sit back on my laurels and wait for Dad to get bored and move (which, by the way, he stopped doing once we three kids graduated). When I need to cleanse, it’s got to be a decision I make, and it’s not always an easy one. How do you tell someone, “thanks, but it’s over.” Breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a boyfriend, I think, because the relationship is different. When you make a romantic break, there’s the possibility you can be friends, or maybe without the romance there’s not much reason to be around each other so it doesn’t matter. With friends, it’s different. There is no, “but we can still be friends” – that defeats the whole process.

I’ve only made that cleansing move twice in the last 25 years, both because it is so damned hard and because, well, I generally love my friends. I don’t get to spend as much time with a lot of them as I’d like, but I do still like having them. What usually drives me to that point is how that person makes me feel. I don’t need to be coddled and given warm fuzzies by any means, but if I’m constantly left with a negative self-image after talking with the friend or just feeling badly about myself because of them, I don’t need them nor do I want them around. In many cases, these are the friends who use a revolving door – they come into your life for a while, then leave for a while, then they eventually resurface.

I do believe people come into our lives for a reason, but I have to remember that people leave our lives for a reason, too – and sometimes that reason has to be because we tell them to leave.

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Facing our own mortality

We often talk about children and teens and how they tend to think they’re immortal, that they have this, “It can never happen to me” sense about them when it comes to doing certain things. There’s a bravado that children have, probably through the innocence of not having seen anything prove it wrong, that lets them believe they will live forever.

Today I’ve discovered that I have lived a bit with that “never happens to me” belief, as well. Oh, not by living vicariously and riding my bicycle down a steep hill to take the jump at the bottom or swinging on a rope over a boulder-filled lake.

No, this mortality comes in the form of disease, age and death. I learned this morning that the sister of one of my very best friends in middle school and high school passed away yesterday. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last November and, according to Janie, her sister and my childhood friend, the disease moved quickly.

Idona Branstuder, Janie’s older sister, was a bit older than we were – Janie’s parents had two children, Charles and Idona, and then when the older two were in high school had two more, Janie and Nina – but not much. Her obituary lists her as 60, which seems far too young for the evils of Alzheimer’s to creep in. And Janie, who like me is 44, seems much too young to be losing a sibling to such a crippling disease.

My heart goes out to Janie and Nina and the rest of the Tate family in northwestern Missouri. It’s stories like this that truly make my heart ache. I’ve not yet reconciled myself with the idea that my friends and cousins and others my age are facing the real possibility of losing their parents, nor have I come to see the true age of my own parents. My dad and I were talking about aging the other day and I realized that at 72, he is considered elderly – yet when I hear media reports of an “elderly man” of 70s doing something, I shake my head in disbelief.

I know, logically, that we are aging. That it’s been 26 years since my family moved from that small town in Missouri and Janie and I went from hanging out after school to writing letters once in a while. Yet there are times it seems not so long ago, and that we’re not as old as we really are — and those times spent with Janie after school in Idona’s small house listening to Van Halen albums and smoking cigarettes where our parents wouldn’t see us aren’t so distant after all.

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