Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Early Morning Reflections of Friendships Gone By

Sometimes when you are lonely, your mind starts to reflect on the past, on the friendships made, lost, and displaced.  Tonight there is a lot on my mind and as has happened in the past, I've begun thinking about people in the past, those who have come and gone but who live on in some manner in my mind.  The good thing about this little blog is that no one really knows it's here or cares about it.  It's like my own little place on the web.  I guess it's like talking to a stranger in that it's easier than talking to people you know sometimes, or maybe it's talking to a blank canvas when there is no one else to listen.  I don't know, but here I am, me and my thoughts.

My current state of mind over this began with thinking about a singer I adore and his other fans.  That's a whole story in itself, but that led to me thinking about those who have an aura around them that makes folks want to be around them.  I believe this singer has that quality, so that's where that part of my mindset began this evening.  Then I started remembering a few people in my past who had that light surrounding them, the one said they were special for one reason or another and which brought others to them whether or not they beckoned.

My best example of that is probably Todd, a very popular boy from high school.  He really was super popular and sought after.  He had it all: good looks, great personality, charm, talent, intelligence, good manners, charity, belief in God.  He just was “it” back then.  By a fluke of working with him in student government, I ended up becoming good friends with him.  One of the things I learned back then is that being popular doesn't always mean you have close friends.  He never had to make a phone call.  That boy's phone rang off the hook, and yet his circle of people he considered close was not that large.  Our relationship was so much fun and quite special to me.  It had its turbulent moments, but we made it through for quite a while, even into college.  As often happens, though, as you grow up, you go in different directions.  He got married, started a family, and ended up residing in another state.

I do have to say that I recall being over the moon when he called up out of the blue one day.  This was a long time ago now, mid-eighties I believe.  We had a few lovely conversations, but that was that.  A few years ago for kicks, I looked him up in the university directory where I knew he was still employed, and I sent him an email.  He never replied back.  That was a bit of a disappointment, but life moves on, and I don't blame him for not responding.

The funny thing about adolescence is that there is so much to be learned and life is not always fair about how it's done.  I'd change a lot if I could do it over again.  The thing is not all of it was in my control.  Being Mr. Popular, most of my girlfriends were romantically interested in Todd.  I wasn't.  I only wanted his friendship.  Youth being what it is, most people couldn't accept that.  Everyone wanted it to be more than it was and because, even “just” as a friend, I was the admittedly high maintenance type, things were often misconstrued.  The only thing I was “in love” with was having such a good friend.

However, when you are surrounded by girls who wanted to be “in love” with Todd, things easily get explosive.  I remember a “good” friend who somehow became jealous of my friendship with Todd.  She called me one day and apologized.  She'd apparently been saying some very rude things about me behind my back.  She felt guilty in the end and had to come clean about it.  We made it peacefully through high school, but I have no clue what became of her after that.

Even Todd's older brother had issues with me.  I was probably too clingy.  I loved Todd as a friend and every minute was magical to me, but Bry didn't quite get it, either.  He was the intellectual type and a lot of fun to be around, too.  I actually adored him, but he didn't really think Todd should be friends with me.

There was one time when Todd and I had a disagreement over something.  Okay, I guess it was an argument.  Don't ask me what started it.  My brain doesn't retain a lot of the specifics on unpleasantness.  As it ended up, I believe it resulted in me saying I wouldn't call him again.  It would be up to him to call me.  I think Bry was part of that and it ultimately had that feeling of “talk when spoken to but not before.”.  I didn't contact Todd, but I saw him a time or two, at church, I think it was.  I was very formal.  It was hard, but I'd made a promise.  He finally called me after a week or so, although Bry hadn't wanted him to do so.  Fortunately, Todd cared a bit more about our friendship than his brother did.  We got through it.

High school ended.  He went on a mission, and surprise, he actually wrote me letters.  Writing letters wasn't really his thing, so that correspondence was always a treasure.  You know, I still have them, right where I kept them back then, in with my scriptures.  Crazy, but true.  Then came college, and we had more good times.  We went to the same college for a while and even lived at the same off-campus apartment complex.  I helped him a lot with his English papers.  I can still remember the name of one of his professors who insisted on essays being turned in on time.  Todd told me how this instructor told his students that even if you are in a car accident, hold up that English assignment and tell someone to “Get this to Thayer!”  Now that I think about it, I think I even typed one or two of those papers.  Hey, part of that “A” belongs to me!  :}

Those were the days.  We had such great talks.  Todd was a talker, and so was I.  Put us together and that equaled some very long conversations.  I miss him.  The truth is I miss him a lot, even to this day.  The odd thing about me is that I am a strange mix of confidence and insecurity.  It makes no sense, but I know I have more ability than many believe, and yet I am extremely insecure.  Perhaps it comes from my perceptions of both my mother and my sister.  They were perfectionists and a hard act to live up to.  In fact, I couldn't, and maybe that was my downfall as I grew up, never being as good as either of them.  I do know that my insecurities began as a very little girl and I've never overcome them.  It led to my high maintenance profile in friendships, which ultimately has led to the downfall of many of them, possibly including the one with Todd.

Though in the end, I think it was just moving on in different directions, I still wonder if all my over-exuberance in being Todd's friend and the inbred insecurity in my soul just caused it all to go south.  I don't know.  Maybe it just was that married folks and single folks don't compute, especially within our church and especially when separated in distance.  The last time we spoke, he was married with children and I was still me, on my own and living a totally different reality.  I remember getting a card from him saying maybe he and his family would stop by that year for Christmas because they were going to be here visiting his family, but they didn't come by and that was probably the very last communication I had with him.

I heard there was a situation with one of his kids that was quite sad, but I never heard the details.  By then I'd lost all contact with his family, though I had been super close with his mother for many years, and the information had come through my dentist.  In my mind, I'm sure Todd has been a great husband and a terrific dad.  I can't imagine him being anything different.  I see him as a bishop of his ward and probably as popular and sought after today as he was in youth.  I'm sure he's sung many times.  He has a beautiful voice and I loved it whenever he pulled out his guitar and sang a bit.  He made me a tape once that was a special gift.  I could listen to him sing all day.  His brother was musical and had a band.  They were a hoot.  The two of them sang together at a swim party I had once.  Somewhere in my hundreds of cassette tapes is one of those brothers singing that night.  It was really fun.

To be honest, back in high school, Todd's mom was the mom I'd always wanted.  Nothing against my own mother who loved me to pieces, but Kitty was different.  She was a teacher, which I'd always wanted to be, and she just took everyone in and accepted them for who they were.  I actually got to know her before Todd and I became good friends.  In fact, I remember the first time I went to Todd's house.  There was some paper he needed to have relating to an event at the high school and so, with a friend in tow, we went to his house.  His mother answered the door and I asked if Todd was home.  “No, but come on in.”  Huh?  Hey, where I live, people didn't do that.

We did go in and we were there for something like three hours.  It was insane.  Bry and a friend of his came in to say “hi” and talk.  I mean it was surreal.  I'd never known a family to do that.  Kitty made us lemonade and to this day, whenever I have lemonade, I think of Kitty and her amazing warmth and friendship.  I loved her.  She treated me like one of the family, and I felt so special, but that's how she treated everyone.  She loved life and people and she embraced anyone within her reach.  I don't know what's happened to her, if she's still living or is now with God, but even two days ago, I happened to pass by the street where the family lived and thought about her.

Todd's father was about as opposite from Kitty as you could get.  He was a gruff one, and he could be scary.  I vividly, repeat vividly, recall the first time I met him, too.  It wasn't because of his pleasant personality that it stands out but it was because he was wearing a gun.  Yikes!  Guns are foreign to me and I'd never been close to a gun-totin' man before.  I have a hunch my eyes got as wide as dollars because Kitty quickly explained that he was on the road a lot and always took a gun for protection.  Okie dokie.  Well, the truth was, he loved guns.  He was one of those “you'll have to kill me to get my guns” type, a real NRA advocate.  I believe he had his own private little arsenal in that home, but the other truth was that he was really a teddy bear.  You just had to get to know him and understand why he was the way he was.  His upbringing wasn't the kindest and when you learned his story, he was easier to understand.  I grew to love him, too.  He stopped being scary very early on.  He died after I'd lost contact with the family, but I remember reading about it.  My prayer then and now is that he found peace with God that he hadn't had on this earth.

So, in these wee morning hours when I write this first reflective entry, I am thinking of Todd and our wayward friendship.  While I wonder about his family, both the one he grew up with and the one he's made with his wife, it is Todd himself that I wonder about the most.  There are so many little things that touched my heart and echo in my mind, things that continue to make him special to me.  I lament how my insecurities and subsequent clingy and high maintenance qualities affected our relationship, though I don't know if changing it would have made a difference in whether or not we'd still be in touch.  I also wish other people could have just left us alone to be friends and not put that romantic thing into play.  It didn't affect me, but I know it was a factor with him.  He was often “worried” I cared about him more than he wanted me to, and I believe that was more from the influences of others who said things to him.  At any rate, with the decades that have passed, I wonder if I'm even a footnote in his memory.  I rather doubt that I am, simply because I am confident he is living a life that is full and blessed.  He has a strong faith and a good heart.  I wish I could match what he has in that regard, but I know I don't, far from it, in fact.

Somewhere, maybe still at that university, there is a man named Todd who I still love, treasure, and have happy memories of from our past.  I miss him, his soft-spoken voice, how he was late for almost everything, the sound of him singing, those long talks, and the hugs.  I hadn't really known hugs until I met Todd and his family.  It was a strange thing to me, to hug a friend.  We didn't do it a lot, but I remember the goodness I felt when we did.  I could use a hug right now.  Maybe that's part of why I'm thinking about Todd and his family, because when he hugged me, it was a good hug, one you could feel, or maybe I'm just beating myself up over a misplaced friendship that was somehow squandered in the distant past.  I don't know, but I can say that this won't be the last time I think about him.  He is just too much a part of my heart to ever forget completely.

Wherever you are, I love you, Todd ... egads, as a friend. 

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