May 2, 2008

"Friend" 5: A spattering of friends past and present

TGIF! Not that I always even know when it's Friday since I stay home with my son. I definitely look forward to the two WHOLE days I get to spend with Justin not working though! Today I want to remember and be thankful for friends of times past and present. I'll start with the oldest, and end with the most recent...

Kira - My sister, my friend. She has been with me since I can remember, arriving when I was only 2 years old. As children I tried to teach her everything I knew, then got jealous when she knew so much. She is one of the best people I know. She does things like watch my son for eight hours on Mondays to help out, and then while he's napping she cleans my house. She also does things like bake gluten-free brownies for my husband the day after he's diagnosed with Celiac Disease. She is creative, a perfectionist, an artist, an environmentalist. She is awesome.

Rachele - Rachele, oh Rachele. My best friend in 4th and 5th grade. We hated our 4th grade teacher together. Since we were both Rachael/ele D, he called us Da and Do (the first 2 letters of each of our last names). We HATED it. We bonded over Girl Scouts, painted posters of Sparty for the McCheeroff, chasing Jordan Rash around the playground and sleepover parties. At the end of 5th grade, I moved far away - Michigan to Washington. Rachele and I wrote letters. She came to visit once. Over the years our friendship waxed and waned, but through the glory of MySpace, we've been back in touch for several years. When we first got in touch after Rachele had her 2nd child, I found that she had chosen the same name for her that Justin and I had chosen were we to have a girl. How crazy is that? Rachele is an inspiration. She hasn't always had things easy, but she is a great mom to three gorgeous little kids. She blogs about overcoming sadness and the past, and has continued her education and gone from working at gas stations to a job and career in the medical field. I'm proud to call her my friend. Maybe not the closest, but as one of my oldest friends she'll always hold a special spot in my heart. YTFA Rachele!

H - An amazing friendship with a really, really weird end. When I was in 7th grade, I met H and we quickly became best friends. Our friendship was an amazing thing of creativity and fun. We had an incredibly involved life involving different lives and characters we imagined and playing their stories out. We both loved to sing, and were in the school play together that year. H's family had lived in Hong Kong for several years, and to me she seemed mature and worldly. She had a cute older brother and we had dozens and dozens of sleepovers at each other's houses. My friendship with H certainly affected my transition from 8th grade to being a freshman in high school. The summer after 8th grade, as we sat in her bedroom, H pulled out a picture of a baby. She handed it to me and said "What would you do if I told you this baby was mine"? I was speechless. At that exact moment, my parents arrived to pick me up and I heard the car horn honk from the driveway. I had to go. She told me that she'd had the baby over the summer, who the father was (an on-again off-again sort-of boyfriend/guy she liked who had moved to another city) and that the baby lived with him and his mother. Now, I am not sure whether I ever believed her or not. But it didn't make sense, I had been away from her for 6-8 weeks at most that summer, and it just didn't make sense. I came to the conclusion that it wasn't true, but somehow she kept up this charade all through high school. I would pass her in the lunchroom that year or the next and she would say something about the child while her friends sat by trying to supress smiles that laughed at me. Later, my sister became friends with H, at which point it was completely apparent that there had never been any baby. This was one of the WEIRDEST experiences of my entire life. I guess this was the only way she could think of to oust me, to tell me that she didn't want to be my friend anymore. It was completely bizarre. I still think about it and wonder what she was thinking, why she told me that. I have barely spoken to her since that summer, I would see her around in high school, but our friendship was over. I do know that if this hadn't happened, maybe I never would have made the other wonderfully close friends I made in ninth grade, so for that I'm thankful.

Thomas - Okay, I admit it. When I was in high school I spent A LOT of time on the internet. A lot. On AOL. Chatting with people. Mostly with people my age, some who I knew (my friend Sati) and some who I didn't. I met people from online. Sometimes I was smart, sometimes I was stupid. One person I met online was a boy named Thomas. Some people might say that this friendship couldn't have been as 'real' as real-world relationships. But I talked to T for an hour or more almost every night for over a year. We talked about everything. He was always there for me, he listened to my problems, helped me be calm, and offered practical advice and solutions. Despite the fact that he liked me as more than a friend, he managed to sit through, support me, and give me advice on several boys I dated. He made me feel better about myself, worth more, and valued as a friend. He was probably one of my first real friendships with a male. Most of all what I remember is being able to talk about more important things - familial relationship and religion. Thomas went to a Christian school, and had an amazing faith in God that I couldn't even imagine. As with my friend Violet, I never felt judged and he was open to ALL of my questions and ideas and wonderings about how there could be a God. I admired him for his faith. I felt jealous because I thought I would never know what that felt like. I eventually met Thomas in real life and we hung out a few times, but things tapered off and we lost touch. I've been thinking about him a lot in the past year. I thought of him when I found my faith, and especially when I was baptized. The idea of telling him about my experiences made me excited. Unfortunately I don't have his contact information. I'll always remember him and hopefully I'll somehow be able to find him and get back in touch with him.

J - I met J in middle school. At the time, I don't think we were really friends, although I do remember seeing him and spending some time with him and another friend on my 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. We both took journalism in 9th grade and then spent some of our time in grades 10-12 working on the high school newspaper together. He was smart, witty, and funny - he made me laugh. Somewhere in there, I developed an enormous love for him. I know that some people will say it wasn't, that it was a silly crush, but I loved him, a part of me always will whether it was as a friend or more than that. Unrequited of course. As our high school graduation ceremony ended, I suddenly realized that I might never see him again. In fact, I probably wouldn't, and I wasn't being dramatic about it, it's just the way it is. I wrote him a letter. I told him how I felt and that I wondered why nothing had happened between us and admitted that although I felt embarrassed about this letter, I needed to write it and that if he didn't want to write back that was okay, but please not to show it to anyone else. Well, he did write back. That summer while I was visiting my Dad, I received a four page long handwritten letter from J. After I read through it, I cried. All my emotions and wondering from the past three years just got released, and I was free. He told me that I tended to have a negative slant to my stories, my life, the way I talked. That wasn't all of it, but part of it. Maybe that was the beginning of me looking at my behavior as an adult and how I framed things, and the first step onto a road of realizing how lucky I am, and how to be happy even when circumstances aren't want I first wanted. He ended the letter with "Now go and get yourself a Slurpee". Perfection - he really did know me. In a moment that could have been cruel, to a seventeen year old girl with less-than-great self image, he still supported me, and I'm grateful.

Sam - I met Sam in one of my classes while attending Whatcom Community College through the Running Start program. I was 16 years old, almost 17 and he was 16. He was cute, with his sandy light brown hair, roundish face, and excited eyes. He was incredibly smart. So smart that he had graduated high school at 16, and had published papers on paleontology at that age. We started e-mailing each other long e-mails, making study dates and talking the whole time. I broke up with my boyfriend and Sam told me he loved me and wanted to be with me. Over the next couple of months we dated on and off. When we broke up for the final time, I told him that I didn't like some of his behavior (he would drink sometimes), and that I thought he got too involved in relationships/feelings too fast, saying things like 'love at first sight'. I still wanted to be friends. Over the next month or two after that, I tried to be his friend. I would see him around and we'd chat, we'd e-mail. I was probably being manipulative. Despite the fact that I'd broken up with him, which was hard and felt horrible, I think a part of me wanted for him to still say he liked or loved me because it made me feel good. One day I got an e-mail from Sam that said, amongst other things, "you keep saying you want to be my friend, but you're not acting like it". He was right. Something just clicked, and I realized I wasn't being a good friend, I wasn't giving him the option of doing what he wanted when it came to communicating, I was... well, being a bitch. I drove all the way to the school on my day off and waited for him outside his class. I sat down with him on a bench, so nervous I was literally shaking, which I didn't notice until he pointed out that my hands were trembling. I told him I was sorry, that he was right. That I would leave it up to him if and when he wanted to be friends and talk again and he replied with "I'll get back to you on that". It was truly a moment that changed my life. I realized that I needed to be an honest person and that I needed to have a lot more respect for other people instead of just thinking about myself. To this day, the most important thing to me is respect. I try my hardest to treat other people respectfully, and I expect the same in return. He helped me to being becoming and adult. I didn't talk to Sam again for a year and a half. In August of 1999, I got an e-mail from him. I remember that he said "I said I'd get back to you, I didn't say when" and that I wrote back, so excited, I'd never liked how things had ended between us. We talked on the phone, caught up, he told me about his life and how he'd been living in Seattle and going to school at the University of Washington. He had a girlfriend who he loved. He was back in Bellingham for the summer, staying with his parents. We made plans to meet on Friday at Stuarts, my favorite Bellingham hangout of the time, to get coffee. He didn't show up. I was mad, of course. I didn't know where he'd been. I came home to an e-mail about how his car had broken down. When I talked to his Mom about it later, she told me how upset he'd been, pacing in the yard, unhappy that he couldn't make it to see me. The next Monday, I got some of the worst news of my life when I opened my e-mail. It was a note from my friend Xotchil. "Do you remember that smart kid Sam... he killed himself... my grandparents know his parents...". I was in shock. I don't think that Xotchil knew how close I'd been to him, or how he'd affected me. I made my way downstairs where my sister and Sati (who'd spent the night) were. I was crying. I told them about the e-mail. I drove my sister to school, then drove to Bellingham because I didn't know what else to do. I remember crying and repeating "No, no, no" out loud on the way there. I stopped at a phone booth and dialed his parents house. His grandmother answered. I didn't know what to say.... "I heard something... about Sam... that he killed himself". She confirmed that it was true, she was sweet and kind, I couldn't believe I was even having the conversation. I gave her my information and told her for his parents to please call me if there was anything I could do. I drove downtown and saw Xotchil, walked into her work crying and she came and had coffee with me. I know now that Sam's girlfriend broke up with him, I know that he got a gun, but they don't know how. I know that when he contacted me, he was tying up loose ends. I felt guilty because I volunteered for a teen crisis line and I should have seen it, done something. I know now that they think he may have had Asperger's. But he could have just been a mixed up 18 year old kid who never fit in with kids his own age or with the adults, and had an intelligence beyond his years. I know that his parents were having health issues and that it probably scared him. I will always wish there was something I could have done. I talked to his parents, and actually became friends with his mother. I think I may have been one of the only ones of his friends to offer to help and to talk with them and tell them about their son and how much he meant to me. Now we exchange e-mails sometimes, and Christmas Cards. I tell her about how my Sam is doing - my Sam that is named partially after her son. When I think of the name, I don't think of sadness. I just think of an amazing star that went out too soon.

Of course this just a snapshot of people who have meant more to me than I can really describe, and will always be a part of my heart. There are many, many more people out there who are currently part of my life, or who have been recently that I love and who have affected me in positive ways. But these are some of the important building blocks that have made me who I am right now, and despite any pain or sorrow I've had, I can't say how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

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