Friendship . . .

me-2-oppositeOne of the things in my life that has always fascinated me, is how relationships work. If I hadn’t been a stay at home mom, I might have been a therapist.

Growing up in the St. Clair-Oakwood area, most of my friends were of various ethnicities. My best friend Angela was Italian. I think I could speak English, Ukrainian, Polish and Italian before I was two.

Angela and I were best friends; I mean the very best. We spent every single day together. We took turns being in charge.  If she wasn’t bossing the kids in our neighbour around, then I was.

She taught me how to hoola-hoop; I taught her how to ride a bike, but the single greatest return on my friendship investment with Angela, was the discovery that I LOVED Italian food.

My mom once told me a story about my paternal grandmother being heartsick regarding the fact that I was not eating, and told my mom she should take me to the doctor. At first, my mom scoffed at the idea that anything could be wrong, but after a couple of nights, she noticed my grandmother was right. I refused to eat dinner, saying I wasn’t hungry.

The next night when she called me in for supper and couldn’t find me, she began scouring the neighbourhood, eventually locating me in the basement of Angela’s house, smack dab in the middle of her dinner table, eating pasta with about twenty members of her family. They didn’t seem to mind another mouth, and I was in heaven. Mystery solved. Who wanted to eat two dinners? Lol

I miss the innocent days of childhood, when you could be mad at each other right after breakfast, then be best buds again by lunch. No dissecting the problem, no delving, just carrying on.

Unfortunately, life got a tad more complicated than that.

Carol, (my good friend from high school) and I hardly see each other but when we do, it’s as if no time has passed. We re-connect without any awkwardness whatsoever, and recently I was thrilled to see her again on the occasion of her husband’s retirement. We laughed, we cried . . . it was wonderful!

I have other friendships like that too. I’m sure we all do.

Back in my teen years, there was a lot of drama within our Ukrainian community. Friendships were made and broken at the drop of a hat. This person said that behind someone’s back, then this one did that with someone’s boyfriend and so on, and before you knew it, the best of friends had become mortal enemies; which usually lasted for a week or so until they managed to patch things up again till the next time.

During this time, I began developing serious long term friendships; one was, and still is with my bff, Deb. We’ve known each other since childhood, but became real friends once we began dancing in the same group together! We had two mutual friends, one named Nadia, the other, Donna.

We were close back in the day, and most of us roomed together whenever we travelled. Nadia lives in Kingston and I’m elated to have re-connected with her this past year on social media. Sadly, my friend Donna has passed away.

After I was married, I made new friends, one of them being my friend Elaine, who I met, through my then husband George. Elaine and I were married the same year and became pregnant with both of our children at the same time. She is a wonderful woman, honest, forthright, smart and funny; a person I can totally be myself with. Being able to be that free with someone is truly a gift! We don’t agree on everything, but we never argue, and we have never had a serious disagreement. It’s a freeing relationship; easy. I hope she feels the same way about me. We don’t see each other that often either, but when we do, it’s always a treat. We are like two peas in a pod when it comes to most things, and I count her among my dearest of friends.

Then there’s my kooky friend Olena. (I say that in the most heartfelt, loving way.) In fact, it’s her quirkiness that opened my mind and heart to notions of peace, tolerance and everything as yet still unproven in the universe, being more front and center.  She is an excellent example of patience, and is one of the kindest, most decent and loving persons I know. I consider it a great privilege to be able to call her, friend. Finally, but not lastly by any means, there’s my friend Irene.

The last two relationships have not been without their ups and downs over the years. A triad can be complicated; one of us may be experiencing joy while the other two are going through some terrible time, or vice versa. It gets complicated. At times, alliances have shifted, even broken for long periods of time; but for the most part, they’ve been restored.

All in all, my friends have stayed the course with me through the worst of times, and the best.

What’s odd and terribly disconcerting is that no matter how close you grow to someone, it doesn’t take much to sever those ties.

An unkind word, a heated argument or disagreement, and friendships can suddenly and instantly be fractured. We begin to wonder whether the relationship is worth the effort; and if there’s a significant undercurrent of repressed hurt or anger, the process of severing ties and re-connecting over and over again, can get wearisome. Even if nothing of any significance has happened, sometimes people simply drift apart.

I used to imagine that when we reached our age, we’d have more time to spend together; our kids grown and gone, retirement closing in, but I have found just the opposite. My friends and I are busier than ever, and one of the things I know to be true about keeping relationships healthy is that they require time; but there are other things that erode the bonds as well.

We grow and mature at different rates, and some of us never mature; living by the adage, “It’s easy to grow old, if you haven’t grown up.”

Friendships remind me of the way one mimics a train moving; forward, then back, then forward again. With all those moving parts, there’s bound to be friction.

One of the other things I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I don’t tolerate things the way I used to in my younger days. I don’t seem to have the elasticity, or energy I once had, to argue, debate, get angry, break apart, then reconcile.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found things once thought of as vitally important, simply aren’t anymore. I find myself wanting to be with others who’ve acquired peace within themselves; with those who fill me up, rather than deplete me.

Every so often I re-evaluate the criteria for friendship, because as the quote says, “To have a friend, you need to be a friend.”

It means that if I can’t meet with you as often as I’d like, I’ll call, (or in my case, e-mail, as most of my friends know I HATE talking on the phone!) It might mean taking a moment to say, “hey,” on Facebook, or sending a card or thoughtful gift, just to let someone know I’m thinking about them and still care.

Being busy doesn’t mean not keeping in touch. It means you keep in touch despite being busy.

After all, we’ve been told a thousand times that at the end of our lives, it won’t be working longer hours, or making more money that will have mattered, but rather time spent with loved ones and friends.

In the end, it’s really a fifty-fifty proposition. It’s partly up to me to make sure my friends know I love them, but it’s not solely up to me, and if it doesn’t seem to be worth the time or effort to do so, then it’s probably not a worthwhile friendship.

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