On Old Friends Wronged

Man, I’m either running out of things to say or I’m just too busy. My last post was almost a year ago. What a slacker.

I had a weird week, this past one. Through sheer serendipity, I ran into a bunch of people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I blew off a party invite, went out to dinner instead, and happened to go to the same place where the party was being held! I crashed it (never having Répondez’ed, despite the s’il vous plaît) and ran into good friends whom I hadn’t seen for a while nor expected to be in attendance. Then, today, while getting a haircut and shampoo, I realized that the guy staring up at the ceiling next to me was an old co-worker. I left the barbershop, stared into a restaurant and found my business partner there! (Ok, not that weird, he eats there all the time and I’d seen him an hour earlier).  Walking past the restaurant, I ran into another old co-worker (from the same company as the shampoo-mate).

The whole experience reminded me of an old science fiction story where the narrator discovers that groups of people begin to breathe in synch just before major catastrophes.  At the end of the story, everyone he sees is breathing in unison just before the big asteroid hits. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe I need to be better about staying in touch with old friends. Maybe it’s just that Bellevue is a hopping town. Dunno.

Regardless, reunions are in my future.  Tomorrow, my wife and I travel to San Diego to spend a long weekend with good friends. Earlier this evening, I spent time discussing plans for a reunion with college and travel friends (my Princeton/Scandinavian cohorts with whom I’ve previously reunited in France and Iceland).  Another friend, a German, whom I met in Shanghai will be visiting sometime this summer. Once or twice or more times this year, I’ll surely travel to Miami for business and to see some of my best and oldest friends.

Despite this, I mourn the loss of regular contact with many other friends many whom, in my past, were very dear and important to me.  In 2016, I attended a reunion of my high school class. Shortly after, I traveled to NY for a mini college reunion.  In both of these events, I spent time with great friends but, alas, way too little time.  Some of these friends I speak to once or twice a year – others less frequently. Some of my high-school friends I’d not heard from for 39 years!

It’s not that we’ve grown apart or have nothing in common anymore. Quite the opposite, it took zero time to remember how much these folk mean to me and to get comfortable around them.  Frankly, if we lived in the same town, they’re people whom I’d love to see all the time!  The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to be a good friend. I suck at it.

My friend, Tom, does not suck at it.  While I send out a printed holiday letter, Tom sends out a handwritten, personal, note.  While I write in Facebook if I travel somewhere interesting, Tom will occasionally send a postcard.  Tom calls people.  I’d like to be like Tom, but I am, fundamentally, not as good a friend as Tom.

Of all my neglected friends, I am most sad about those to whom I was inadvertently cruel.  Let me digress for a moment to explain…

My daughter was an early speaker.  When she turned one, my wife and I visited the pediatrician and she asked us how many words our daughter knew (“Mama”, “Dada”, etc.). My wife and I looked at each other and responded, “all of them.”  An exaggeration, perhaps, but by age 1.5, my daughter could hold a conversation using long sentences.  My son, on the other hand, could not speak in long sentences at age 1.  At age 2+, he was getting better but did not reach my daughter’s level of proficiency until last week or so. When we visited our pediatrician for his 3rd birthday, we pointed this out to her and she noted that “Girls develop faster than boys and, after that, they pretty much stay that way.”  By all this, I mean that boys are not as wise as girls, especially on some topics.  In my case, the topic is “understanding people.”

I’m sure that I rate somewhere near the middle of the Aspberger’s scale (actually, I just took a quick test and scored on the lower range of “borderline Aspberger’s”). I’ve written previously about how I hate people (and about how that’s not really true).

Regardless, while I’m generally bad at remember things, I find it easy to remember uncomfortable situations in my past.  As I’ve aged (and probably, have finally learned a few things from my wife who definitely does not hate people), I’ve realized that many of these uncomfortable situations involved my being terrible at understanding what was going on at the time. While, these days, I’ve learned that “honey, can you help me here” actually means “Get your lazy ass over here!”,  in my youth I was not so wise.

I am, I believe, fundamentally a kind person.  I would never intentionally hurt someone physically or emotionally.  I’m generally a pushover and prefer being cheated to being the type of person that is always worried about being cheated.

Unintentionally, however, I can think of situations where, in retrospect, I realize I was absolutely terrible to people – people who were my friends. I won’t name names because that would (intentionally) embarrass and hurt them all over again.  Let me, however, make some vague references that, perhaps, the people involved will read and realize I’m talking about them.

  • To those of you who were bullied or mocked or held in contempt and I did nothing to defend you: I apologize. While I avoided participating in this, I was a coward to not actively to prevent it. I was too stupid to realize your pain.
  • To those of you whose opinions I belittled by arguing more forcefully or with more “facts”, I’m sorry for failing to respect your views and for failing to understand that people have different belief systems and different world views.
  • To those of you who sought more from me than I was willing to offer, I’m sorry for not realizing your sentiments and not getting to know you better.
  • To those of you whom, in my desire to be clever or humorous, I said anything to hurt or diminish you, I apologize for placing my pride above your feelings.

I am not someone who regrets anything in the past.  I am happy with who I am and I believe that, had anything different occurred, I would be another person. That said, perhaps these mea culpas can serve as salve to old wounds on those whom I’ve wronged (but have, hopefully, forgotten all about these incidents!)