24 July 2009

Goodbye Old Friend

Goodbye old friend
peace be with you
may it follow wherever
you want it to
if it becomes a burden
and you long for sin
rest assured I'll never
turn you in
Goodbye old friend
peace be with you

Goodbye old friend
you're too soon gone
but some roads are simply
too damn long
filled with potholes
and hairpin turns
and a pain that never
ever learns
Goodbye old friend
you're too soon gone
Goodbye old friend
you're too soon gone

if I can't follow
and you can't lead
they can cut you
but you'll never bleed
the pain is lifted
and carried away
where it waits for another
who'll have no say
goodbye old friend
goodbye old friend
goodbye old friend
goodbye old friend

Goodbye old friend
if living's a crime
then you kept the law busy
for a long long time
it's high time both of you
take your rest
if the Lord is out there
then be His guest
Goodbye old friend
this one last time
Goodbye old friend
this one last time

if I can't follow
and you can't lead
they can cut you
but you'll never bleed
the pain is lifted
and carried away
where it waits for another
who'll have no say
goodbye old friend
Goodbye old friend
goodbye old friend
Goodbye old friend

Goodbye old friend
peace be with you
may it follow wherever
you want it to
if it becomes a burden
and you long for sin
rest assured I'll never
turn you in
Goodbye old friend
peace be with you
Goodbye old friend
peace be with you
Goodbye old friend
peace be with you

-- Tom Flannery


Well.

An old friend from three decades ago got back got in touch, as they say, a few weeks past.

He wrote to me, courtesy of a professional organization to which we both belong [think American Medical Association, American Society of Chemical Engineers; you get the idea] which kindly forwarded his letter to my current address.

We were such friends, he wrote. It's been so long, he wrote. Last time we talked I was getting married and you were moving overseas... I've been divorced for a few years, recently moved, was unpacking, found your letters from 35 years ago. We had such fun, we enjoyed each other's company, are you back Stateside? Are you well?

So.

After a few days' thought I wrote back, using my P.O. Box address, of course. We live in the same state, the same county even, now. Remarkable, and he thought so too.

Let's get together for coffee, he wrote. Call me here, or here, or here.

So I did, and we did.

And:

We were sitting on the patio, at a restaurant I love that he had never visited before. And he asked me what my favorites were, on the menu. And I smiled and lifted my face to look at the sunset, and then squeezed my eyes tight shut the way I do when I am really, truly happy, and listed them.

And quietly, in an undertone, as I was telling him about the Reuben Sandwiches, I heard him say: "... and I see you still have that squint."

He said it very quietly, and took great care to say it while I was talking. Plausible deniability, is what they call this. Unfortunately for him, I'm a musician and I can hear quite well, even when I'm talking. Trained to it.

So I know what he said, and that's it, verbatim. Uh-huh, yeah, really. Old college chum from 30 years past goes to the trouble to get in touch, takes the time to meet me for dinner, and says THAT within the first 15 minutes.

I'd love to say that I got up, poured our pitcher of ice water over his head, and walked out, but folks, I'd been working overtime and skipped lunch, and I was starving.

So: I ordered, ate, and paid for my own meal [it was delicious, as always], let this charmer dominate the conversation [which instantly became a monologue, but he didn't seem to notice or care], tipped the waitress [jerks are nearly always also stingy], finished my coffee, patted him on the shoulder and went away from there.

Laughing, because I'd remembered this, and decided it was exactly right to print out and send him as a memento of the event.

And yes, it was his wife who filed for their divorce. I kind of figured it had to be, but I asked just to be sure.

Goodbye, old friend.
Goodbye, old friend.
Goodbye.

6 Comments:

Blogger CZBZ said...

Bittersweet.

Beautiful.

You were true to yourself to the very end and that is honest-to-God recovery.

thank you for writing this.

Hugs,
CZBZ

25 July, 2009 17:06  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Thanks CZ.

And just so you know: not a word of this account has been fictionalized, nobody's a composite here.

Since this one's about me, and the other guy is unlikely ever to seek any kind of enlightenment about his behavior, I can tell it exactly the way it was.

We actually were friends once. I have very few recollections of those times, and certainly nothing I remember was this inimical.

But what matters isn't who he was then, or who he might have become if this, if that.

It's what he is now.

And what I am now, too, of course.

Storm

25 July, 2009 17:34  
Blogger CZBZ said...

What I love was your choice to end the evening kindly and not try to educate, explain, placate, or prove to the guy that his comment was wrong or hurtful. This sounds much easier to do than it is.

I have looked back on my behavior and smiled (weakly) at how I unconscious I was to my own self!

I thought of something else I'd like to add to my comments:

It's our peculiarities, our peccadilloes, our oddities that make us so lovable and special to others. I realized this one day when I was standing at the kitchen sink with both toes pointed in opposite directions, one hand on my hip and the other raising a water glass to my lips. My daughter laughed and said, "Mom! I just love the way you drink water!"

It took me back because there's nothing pretty about the way I drink water. In fact, my mother would tell me to point my toes forward the way perfect girls are supposed to stand.

But my daughter loved me even more for being imperfect and 'odd'. See what I mean?

That's something a narcissistic or controlling person could never do: Fall in love with imperfectly perfect people.

His comment was very telling and so was yours. I can imagine a lot of older women promising him and themselves that they'd cure "the Squint" so they'll be more lovable.

What a sad statement for me to make but I think it's far more true than we want to admit.

Big HUGS,
CZBZ

26 July, 2009 19:26  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Don't give me more credit than I deserve, now. I didn't send him that cartoon yet, but it is definitely sitting in an envelope, waiting to go, if & when it's needed.

This is one of those situations where less is definitely more, though. I walked myself through the entire disaster just a day or so ago and counted six specific instances of abusive nastiness on his part during that meal. He took offense at my tipping the waitress; he took offense at my insistence that I pay my own way; he was snide about the fact that I didn't understand some of his occupational jargon; he was snide about basic medical terminology that I used to describe an incident at work [i.e., he managed to be snide about his own failure to understand MY occupational jargon - classic abuser stuff]; he was even snide about the fact that I had made certain to have exact change on hand [small bills] to give him for my portion of the check. [An exercise for the student: would he have been equally snide if I had NOT had exact change and needed to break a $20 or $50? You bet he would have.]

Add all this to the squint-bomb, and the gent should have been awarded a prize of some sort.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how someone can be snide about another person going to the trouble to make sure they have exact change to cover their own meal costs, but he managed it.

It has taken me years to realize a fundamental truth:

Decent people generally behave decently.

Not that decent people can't make mistakes, even occasionally some real whopper-doozies. But: when a decent person fouls up, much of the time they figure it out on their own PDQ ... AND they usually have sufficient moral courage to bring it up and try to make things right.

IOW, most decent people don't need you or me to explain to them how to behave decently, and when they goof, they don't need you or me, most of the time, to explain [a] that they goofed and [b] in what way and [c] what's required to begin rectifying the situation (i.e., bring it up and sincerely APOLOGIZE and then see if further amends are needed).

This is not to be confused with mind-reading. I'm talking about really basic stuff, like: you don't insult someone you haven't seen in 30 years, 10 minutes into your first actual face to face conversation, when it was YOU who initiated contact after 30 years in the first place.

And you definitely do not, after a belly-flop like that, continue abusing them throughout a shared meal, then expect them to eagerly await future invitations to socialize.

That's pretty darn basic ;-).

Funny you should bring up the water-drinking thing. I'll share with you what I was thinking as I put my little car in gear and chugged out of the parking lot and, please God, out of this clown's life forever:

[1] I remembered that priceless cartoon that I linked to in the blog post and --

[2] I thought, "Huh. Never in 50-plus years has anyone EVER accused me of squinting. Let's see: I've been told I have eyes like a deer, like a doe, like a fawn; that my eyes tilt; that they're an extremely beautiful color; that they dance; that they 'snap'. I've been called Brown Eyed Girl, Dark Eyes, Doe Eyes. So... Old Buddy decides to try and tear me down by going after one of my best features? Well, that's typical of the breed, isn't it."

... and a few minutes later came
[3] "Ye gods, what a complete and total schmuck!"

:-)

26 July, 2009 23:03  
Blogger Stormchild said...

CZ, Bottom line: I wasn't actually being kind to this guy by not confronting him. It's important not to give me credit for that, because it wasn't my intention.

I was being kind to myself, especially because he was definitely not being kind to me.

I minimized the unpleasantness as much as possible by being non-interactive. I ate, took care of the things I needed to take care of in order to assure I'd continue to be a welcome 'regular' in that restaurant [pay bill, tip waitress decently] - jerk notwithstanding - and left.

If there had been any glimmer, any faintest spark, that suggested that even a trace of that old friendship remained and was worth trying to preserve, I might have tried confronting him. But, as it was, as he was, there was absolutely no point in it.

Thank you for thinking well of me. In this case, though, it's misplaced. I was just getting away from the guy as rapidly and quietly as possible.

27 July, 2009 20:58  
Blogger CZBZ said...

Guess what? That's exactly what I meant! That you were kind to yourself (and true to your values). Even though we might want to pour a pitcher of water over a jerk's head, we often end up regretting our behavior.

Since you realized immediately that he was dismissing and/or insulting you, it took a lot of discipline to be conscious of the fact and then choose how you'd react.

When I first figured out what it meant to be abused, I wanted to 'clock' every jerk I met. Sometimes I whipped out the sword (yes, metaphorical) and usually felt like a jerk myself. I'd much rather THEY be the jerk instead of me picking up their projections and acting them out myself.

Every situation is so unique, though. I liked the way you handled it.

Recovery is not for the faint of heart. It's easier to be kind if we're ignorant about the dynamics...but to see 'em and understand 'em as clearly as you do? Now that is the challenge!

P.S. Even if you had dumped ice water on his head though, I'd still think well of you. ;)

Hugs,
CZ

28 July, 2009 01:43  

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