Thursday, January 31, 2013

Early Morning Reflections of Friendships Gone By - Part 3

It's hard to realize that you have no one to call, not if your car breaks down, you want to go to a movie, you're sick and need medicine, or just to chat.  That may be hard for some to realize, that there are people who have not a single soul they could call up, not for an emergency or for recreation, but it happens.  In some cases, friends live in other states or countries.  Sometimes there is simply no one.  It is a very sad and lonely feeling to know that is your situation.  As I reflect back on life and friendships come and gone, there are a lot of different reasons for finding myself in the situation I'm in.

As I've written in the last couple of posts, my insecurities started as a young child.  Though I'm actually confident in my abilities, I live in this strange dichotomy where I'm also very insecure at the same time.  I think I'm good, but maybe not good enough.  My friends have covered the gamut in interests and personalities and a lot of them have been very intelligent.  While I'm no dummy and actually have an above average IQ, they're smarter and, perhaps more importantly, they've done more with their lives.  It is one reason why I'll never go to a class reunion, that and the physical equation.

When junior high rolled around, most of my friends from elementary school ended up doing their own thing.  I didn't really see them as much as before.  Junior high for my group meant 7th and 8th grades with high school being years 9-12.  It was in 8th grade when I met a gal who quickly became my best friend of that era.  We met at the water fountain at the back of a school room.  Her name was Beryl, but she was called Babs.  She had long red hair and a great smile.  That's how I remember her -- smiling.

There are many different religious beliefs and even back then I believed in a pre-existence and an after life.  Babs is the only person I've ever met who I really felt like I'd known in the pre-existence.  It wasn't just that we clicked right away, but I truly felt like I knew her already.  It was strange.  I thought about it a lot even as our friendship was taking shape.

We had great fun.  Her mom was British, and I just loved listening to her talk.  She and I got along well, and I truly enjoyed spending hours upon hours with her and Babs at their apartment.  They had a cute little dog, too.  Babs' dad was in the military and stationed in Vietnam.  That was the first time I'd known anyone in that situation and frankly, it was scary.  I didn't know him, but I worried about his safety a lot.

Babs loved horses and the TV show, Alias Smith and Jones.  I loved it, too.  We used to quote dialog to each other.  I still remember a portion of one of our favorite bits, though I haven't watched the episode in quite a while now.  The character of Hannibal Heyes is trying to calm down his partner, Kid Curry, who has been told not to wear his gun in town.  Curry objects and he's insisting to Heyes that he's hungry, is going to go out, and will be wearing his gun.  The more mellow and mild type Heyes threatens something to the extent of “Take another step and I'll flatten ya.”  Curry's retort is “Before breakfast?”  We'd laugh our heads off at that exchange.

In the show, Heyes was played by Pete Duel, a wonderful actor who sadly took his own life during the Christmas holidays.  We were so saddened.  One night at her apartment, we conducted a seance.  It was so cool, especially when we got responses.  Oh geez.  We screamed and laughed.  Was Pete Duel really listening to us?  It's a crazy memory, one that lives on brightly as part of my friendship with Babs.

Unfortunately, when Babs' father returned, he was transferred back east almost immediately.  It was really hard to watch my best friend leave, but we stayed in touch.  We wrote each other all the time and then somewhere along the line we started corresponding via cassette audiotapes.  We acted like DJs practically, including favorite songs and even singing along to them.  In between the songs, we chatted about whatever was going on or how we felt about this and that.  Somewhere in my tape collection, I still have a couple of those tapes.  Babs even came up with our own secret code and sometimes we'd write notes using that code.  I actually have the master code in my papers somewhere.

Eventually, Babs' father retired from the military and the family moved to Texas.  Phone calls, tapes, letters: they all continued through high school and into college. They slowed down from the rapid fire of our younger days, but it was still constant.  As time passed, she graduated from college and went on to get a couple of pretty good jobs.  Like I said, she was smart.

On the other hand, my career never panned out.  My dreams of becoming a teacher just never happened, and I had financial woes that necessitated a change in colleges.  That change turned into a disaster when the new college wouldn't accept all the credits and wanted me to take specific courses that had a bunch of prerequisites that I didn't want to take.  It messed me up royally and ultimately, it ended up adding to my self-esteem issues.  She was doing so well; I wasn't.

I attribute the falling away of our friendship to me.  As I recall, I didn't respond as fast as I had been and I think I let too much time go by.  The truth was that it was one of those bad times where I didn't feel like I had anything to contribute.  At this stage, I don't know who wrote the last letter or made the last phone call, but the time came when there was just no more contact.  We had only seen each other one time after her father's return.  They were on a trip and made a point to drop by.  We had a fun night together.

All of this was before the Internet, but once I had a computer, at some point I did look her up.  At least, I think it was her.  I did write, but never had a response.  I can't say she got it because it was only a guess as to whether or not the person I found was actually her.

Again, I take the blame.  I know I slowed down and I think it was probably me who never wrote again.  It's so hard being in a bad place emotionally.  I just believed she was happier and doing so much better professionally that I stopped.  That's how I think it was.  That said, of all my friends from my past, the one whose picture remains on my shelf is Babs.  It's one she had taken at her office from one of her jobs.  It's just so her and brings back those fun times.  She was a great best friend.  I wish I'd been up to the task.

In truth, I have the same problem today.  I don't feel like I do anything interesting and just can't compare to those I care about.  Their lives seem so much more fulfilling.  I can't live up to them, not to Todd, not to Peggy, and not to Babs.  Certainly, with my circumstances today, I pale alongside most anyone I know, online and offline.

Far from the days when I could rely on those three and others, the world today is more quiet for me, but I will always cherish that year that Babs was here and we had so much fun together.  I'll relish forever the letters and tapes, not to mention the crazy phone calls, including those times when I asked to speak to her mom just so I could hear her accent.

As I type this now, I also think we did have one more odd connection, decades after our last communication.  I can't swear to it because too much time has passed, but I think her dad went to work for a major department store and now that I think about, I believe it's the same one I ended up working for many years later.  I hadn't thought about that until writing this text, but I think I'm right.  Just a funny tidbit, if the recollection is correct.

Babs, if you're out there, my apologies for dropping the ball.  I have all the confidence in the world that you're leading a happy and successful life, and I certainly hope you're still riding horses and maybe own one yourself.  Take care!

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