Friendships come and go, but sometimes a friendship ends, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why.
When I put together the guest list for my upcoming 40th birthday party, I suddenly realised that there are quite a few friends that I don’t get to see all that often anymore, if at all. You know how it is…time passes and you get busy with life, as do they, and before you know it one, maybe even two years have passed and you haven’t seen them during that time.
I’ve always felt that birthdays are a great way to reconnect with friends and family. To me, a birthday isn’t just about celebrating your current age and your future – it’s about celebrating your past. I feel I am the person I am today, and will be reaching this milestone thanks to, many people who I have surrounded myself with over the years. Most have been a great influence, some have not - like my first real relationship, and a couple of other friendships like this one and this one. But all have given me the gift of life lessons at some point during the past 40 years.
Unfortunately, many of my close friends now live interstate or back in my hometown of Perth, and won’t be able to make it. Some friends I haven't seen in a while may not also be able to make it. Sadly, there will be a big piece of my past missing, if the truth be told. Friends and family that have been such a beloved addition to my life. (Most notably, my Aunty Maun, Uncle Neil and Uncle Bull all on my Mum’s side who have passed on since my 21st birthday back in 1991 – my largest birthday party to date.) Obviously, my guest list is somewhat smaller and different since my 21st birthday almost 20 years ago. It’s even quite different to my wedding guest list, now that I’ve met some wonderful friends through my sons’ school. I wouldn’t say I have a lot of friends – but the friends I do have, I cherish.
Most notably missing from the guest list, however, is my old friend, Rose*.
Rose and I met here in Sydney about 10 years ago. I was introduced to her by my husband’s work colleague: Rose’s husband.
The four of us became firm friends. We spent many a weekend together. Hubby and I became Godparents to their two boys. Rose and her husband became Godparents to our three sons. We called each other “family”. When our house was being painted years ago, and I was heavily pregnant with my first son, I didn’t even hesitate to call Rose and ask if I could spend a week at her place (she had suggested I do so if I ever needed to). She didn’t hesitate to invite me in to her home.
And Rose was so excited when she found out I was pregnant with the 8yo. Our babies would be born two months apart, and as we were living just three streets away from each other, we imagined breastfeeding together and visiting parks with our kids in tow. And whilst that did happen on occasion, it certainly didn’t happen as much as I would have expected it to. In fact, I can only count a handful of times we sat together, feeding our babies.
At first, I put it down to us both being busy. I was a new mother; she was a mother of two young boys. We continued with the odd catch up and dinner at their place, or ours. My sons’ birthdays were always celebrated with Rose and her husband and kids in attendance.
However, by the time our third son was baptised in 2007, our friendship was already starting to wane.
The year that followed, I hardly saw Rose, and eventually, at the end of 2008, Rose and her family moved out of the area. We pretty much stopped hearing from Rose and her family altogether. (In fact, I only found out that they had purchased their new house through mutual friends.)
One day, in late 2008, after dropping my car off at a panel beaters not far from Rose’s new home, I decided to drop in. I had the 3yr old with me. I didn’t call (unusual for me – I’m not a ‘drop in’ kinda gal). I just drove to Rose’s house and knocked on her door.
When she answered, I could tell she was surprised to see me. I think she was even slightly shocked. As I balanced the 3yr old on my hip (then about 23 months old), I said confidently, “Hi there Rose.” For the first 30 seconds, I wondered if she was going to let me in. Suddenly, her face fell in to one of relief. She reached out, hugged me and welcomed me inside her new home.
I had planned, after seeing what her reaction was on seeing me, to perhaps ask her what was going on? Why hadn’t she called? Why hadn’t she told us about her new place? However, after she showed me around her new home, and we had some tea and caught up on the news, I felt like time hadn’t really passed between us. As I prepared to leave, Rose promised that she would have Hubby and I around for a bbq some time. She gave me her new email and new phone number (which had not previously been passed on to me). I figured it had all been in my head. Perhaps Rose was just super busy, and hadn’t got around to contacting me?
Since that day, I’ve seen Rose only once. A couple of months after my impromptu visit (and still waiting for an invitation to her home), I sent her boys some gift cards for their birthdays. She dropped in to my house, with her boys in tow, with a gift for the 3yr old (who had celebrated his 2nd birthday a couple of weeks earlier). She didn’t stay long. She promised a catch up again, to return with a gift for the 6yr old at some stage (who had just turned 5), and then she left.
I haven’t heard from her since.
And here’s the thing: I don’t know why our friendship ended. I have no idea if I’ve done anything wrong. I can’t, for the life of me, work it out.
At first, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Analysing it. Yes – we have different parenting styles. I would say Hubby and I are stricter with our kids than Rose and her husband are. We make our boys follow the rules. They have to wear a helmet when riding their bikes, and Rose and her husband were far more relaxed about that sort of thing. My friend, Teresa, always said that the best of friendships could be strained once you discover your differing parenting styles. Could that be it?
There was also an awkward moment between us where Rose had invited us to her old house for dinner some time ago, but we’d never made firm arrangements. We’d just thrown out a date and rough plans. I awaited her phone call closer to the date to confirm all the details, and it never came. Until the night of the proposed catch up, that is. She called asking where we were? Had we fallen asleep and forgotten to come? I had explained that I had not forgotten at all, but we had never made a time or firm plans. I explained that I didn’t want to call and ask if we were still invited – obviously concerned that would put her on the spot if she had forgotten or made other plans. She seemed shocked and taken aback. I was disappointed. By the time she called, we’d started our own bbq at home and I politely turned down her suggestion we just “pop over” – because popping over anywhere isn’t easy with three boys.
Apart from that incident though, there hasn’t been ONE BIG MOMENT that has made me think our friendship would end as a consequence.
The realisation for me that our friendship really was over, was when I sent gift cards again earlier this year for my God sons. I heard nothing. No thank you. No quick email to say she had received them. And no birthday cards or calls or anything for our boys’ birthdays. A mutual friend has been invited to her home, and also received a phone call from Rose late last year when Rose flew back to her previous home of South Africa. She called my friend to say goodbye, in case something happened to her (on a previous trip home years earlier, she and her mother had been held at knife point and tied up until Rose’s stepfather had fired his gun and frightened away the intruders in their home).
I presume, seeing that I didn’t receive a similar phone call, that Rose didn’t feel a need to say goodbye to me.
If I run in to her some day (and chances are that I will) I may well ask her: why? But for now, I’ve decided to not dwell on it. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about it, and even contemplating yet another ‘surprise visit’ or the like. However, over time I have come to the realisation that: not only is the ball in Rose’s court, but that I have some other great friendships to concentrate on. Women in my life who are present. And inviting. Welcoming. Loving.
Life’s too short to worry about what might have been.
Have you had a friendship unexpectedly end? What it through circumstance, or, like me, are you unsure why it ended?
* Not her real name.