I was reading a post several hours ago from Musings from Melbourne and I was reminded of an old friendship that I had forgotten all about; it seemed the ripe time to write about it.
The time had to be seventeen, eighteen years ago and so many details are deeply buried and dusted over in the grey matter, never to be remembered, and that’s fine. We met at work; she is older than I and had years more experience in the field. I don’t remember why or how we became friends other than the usual stuff in common; work, kids and I guess we both were comfortable talking to each other. You know how you meet people and they are easier to befriend than most, you somehow expand the relationship from work to outside work and, unlike many other people, she lived closer to me.
Unlike me, CH had a husband so sometimes the kids and I went over there for dinner — which was nice, not many friends invite the single-mom and kids over, and other times we met up for lunch or a movie. I remember the relationship being comfortable and I remember she had a funny and easy laugh. She could be a little neurotic but it didn’t bother me other than wondering why someone worried about what I considered trifle problems. I baby-sat her children so she and her husband could go out once in a while. Oh, and I forgot, her husband put down the tile in my kitchen. I was willing to pay but, you know how friends are, she said no. I bought the tile and he had it done in a weekend.
Anyway…at some point she left the facility we both worked at and eventually so did I. She was responsible for getting me a different job at the company she went to work for and she was, in the chain of command, immediately above me. I did not take advantage of that, that’s not in my personality to do, but I did do my best because when your friend helps get you a job you don’t want to let them down…at least that’s how I am. We saw each other little during the work day but were in touch. It all seemed okay to me but neither of us really cared for the company and, due to her nature and possibly her position, that stressed her more than it did I.
One summer she and her husband found a new home – I can’t even remember the house they moved from but the one they bought CH believed needed a lot of work. I remember entire rooms in the process of complete renovation and, because he was that kind of handy guy, he was doing all the work … she was supervising. I remember standing in the, well what would be the living room, two story ceiling and a wall of sliding glass doors, huge stone fireplace and the carpet had been removed. I do remember helping her with work on the house but I do not remember particulars. It was a tense time for them, as it is for any couple/family; moving, home repairs and all the upheaval. But they got through it as we all do.
Autumn was approaching and the work environment was getting worse, eventually, after I left, the company went belly-up. I don’t know if she was still there or if she’d gotten out first, by then we weren’t friends but meanwhile the work stress was starting to get to CH, she felt that they were trying to fire her. I have no idea if that was the case or if she was paranoid but I said the things friends say and just tried to do my job as best I could under the circumstances so that wouldn’t compound any work problems. Regardless, somewhere in here things between us got murky.
I remember we had planned on being together for Thanksgiving, the kids and I were going to her house. At work, CH was tense and it seemed to seep into our relationship. She did not say anything to me about anything, she became very curt in our communication and I became unsettled, after all, she was my supervisor and I had no idea what was going on so I treaded lightly. Thanksgiving was cancelled and shortly afterward I bought a card and wrote something in it to the effect that I valued our friendship, blah blah. Worked remained unchanged. She communicated only what she had to and was professional but cold. I even remember approaching her desk and asking her if I’d done something wrong or offended her, if she was mad at me (duh) and to do that was very, very hard for me — at the time. “No,” was her only answer.
I had bought her kids Christmas gifts so one evening, in the dark and cold a week or so before Christmas I went over to deliver them and hopefully talk. I knocked on the door and she answered. Obviously she could see the packages but she did not invite me in nor was she any less like a stone. I gave her the gifs, which I remember thinking probably went right into the trash, and left.
I was, and remain, completely baffled by the whole thing. I remember trying to figure out what I’d done or said that could have been so egregious that she wouldn’t even bring it up. I do remember wondering, absurdly, if someone had gossiped or planted a seed about her husband and I. I say “absurdly” because I barely knew him, I rarely saw him only when we were all at the house but something about a single-mom makes people think we are always desperately seeking a man. Because I knew that I had not done or said anything that would cause her to no longer like me I grasp for feeble straws and the husband thing was all I could come up with, which I dismissed because…well, it was just too far-fetched
I never saw her again until about two years ago. At a conference, I was walking to the end of the lunch line which she was in so I stopped and smiled and said hello and asked her how she was doing. She smiled and said good, and you? And I said good and that was it. I had since forgotten all about her but I do remember hearing that she and her husband had divorced, I don’t know when, and she had gone back to a job she had prior to where we had met. Now that I am reflecting on the whole thing, it is still bewildering.