"The human mind is so constituted that in many instances it finds the truth when wholly unable to find the way that leads to it." ~ Justice Logan E. Bleckley (1879), Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia.
If I were able to have a conversation with Justice Bleckley I would add sometimes we simply get "gob-smacked" with a stinging truth for which we were not searching. This happened to me recently when I e-mailed an old and, I thought, dear friend about the recent death of a former classmate. I admit I was surprised that my friend did not remember the Dear Departed One, since I recall a letter she sent me decades ago about a conversation they had during a particularly trying time for the classmate. So troubling, in fact, that the letter stuck in my memory even though I was not involved in the conversation. By return e-mail my friend stated she did not recall the girl and I explained why I had gotten the impression they were close friends at one time. I told my friend that I knew she was of some comfort all those years ago to the (now dead) classmate. Something I said apparently sounded "terse" to her.
Thus began a string of electronic communications that eventually led me to the realization that to her, if maintaining a friendship with me required an effort beyond Facebook postings, it was simply not worth it. I am still trying to sort it out since the entire situation developed over a 24 hour period (which also happened to be my birthday AND Mother's Day) leaving me feeling a little confused, then irritated and eventually just saddened by an argument over something falsely perceived by her which triggered it all. The best I can piece it together, her criticisms of me were that I had not posted anything on her Facebook page (I assume for a while, although she did not specify) leading her to believe I was harboring some unspoken anger. At first I wondered if she remembered I called her just a few months ago. Eventually the e-mails devolved into her remembering I failed to send her the gift I bought her at the duty free shop in Ireland in 1970. As I remember, the gift was a set of six etched aperitif glasses. I can't recall now why I never sent them. (I have a reputation in my family for buying cards and then never sending them. I apologized to my brother, once. I said I was sorry I wasn't more thoughtful. Because he is a prince among men, he said, "Linderino, you're thoughtful...you're just not do-ful.") But with respect to the aperitif glasses, only one survived a collapse of the glass shelving of my drinks bar years ago, so it is really too late to make amends in any event.
Nevertheless, over the years I have sent other things. I have written letters. I have telephoned. But the fact that I failed to comment on her Facebook page was perceived as a snub. It did not seem to matter that I never received letters or telephone calls in return for mine. It did not seem to matter that books I sent to her when she was not well, did not warrant a simple thank you note. I realized that she saw me as her Facebook friend whereas I saw her as my true friend and we have very different ideas about the care and feeding of our most cherished friendships. The "modern" tendency is to eschew the pen and ink, and even the telephone, in favor of a quick posted comment or a tap on the "Like" button. It appears that is what currently poses for communication (derived from the Latin communis to share.)
Granted, much of my business communications are quick e-mails, although there are still multiple occasions daily when I must write an actual "letter" letter. A letter written on stationary that someone will take out of an envelope, read, and put in a file to molder away. As I said to her, and as I firmly believe, relying solely on Facebook is a very lazy way to maintain important relationships - if they truly are important. Quick comments dashed off onto someone's Facebook page are fine and have a place. They keep us in touch with people we would otherwise lose track of, with people we were close to at one point but whose lives zigged when ours zagged, or with members of our extended families separated by time and distance. It is nice to hear what an old acquaintance is doing and to see pictures of his or her family. I am happy to have those people back in my life, if only through electronic media. But that kind of communication alone, no matter how heartfelt, is not good enough, nor should it be, for my close family members or dearest friends - especially those relationships that have survived longevity and the triumphs and tragedies of life. It isn't good enough for the people who have walked along beside me, and propped me up when I needed propping up. Not by a long shot.
I was told that I was obviously one of those "people of a certain age" who was just too stubborn and stuck in my ways to embrace modern technology. And as odd as it may sound, with that comment she finally said something with which I can totally agree. If being "modern" means that a quick sound-bite or thumbs up on someone's public page is all that is required of me in order to maintain my most precious relationships, then I am unashamedly a fossil of the very first order. But when I think of my children and their friends, Facebook seems to be used "in conjunction" with keeping in touch by telephone...or in person. They are there for each other both figuratively and in reality. So perhaps I am not quite the dinosaur I seem.
I will grant you, letter writing appears dead and buried. There is a reason why schools no longer teach penmanship - aside from the cost cutting reasons. Penmanship is no longer needed; handwriting has become a lost art. Why strive to express oneself in a handful of written pages when you can simply hit "Like" or take brevity to its ultimate economical end and type "LOL". Why call a friend to share your happiness over their good fortune, when a smiley face on their Facebook page should be all they need or deserve? Call me a fossil; say I am an old fuddy-duddy who is obviously out-dated. Write me off as a person of a certain age who will never be cool. Worse...as someone without aspirations of techno-savvy coolness. In the meantime, I think I'll phone a friend, and then I believe I'll write a letter...a letter in which I will drone on and on my expansive and brilliant thoughts. If he or she is friend enough, it will at least be perceived as semi-brilliant. It may not be the equivalent of letters between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, or Avis DeVoto and Julia Child (aren't we lucky there was no Facebook back then?), but it will be a tangible little bit of something from me that, if useful for nothing else, can be folded up and used to prop up the wobbly leg of a table. Try doing THAT with a Facebook comment!
Although I did not give her name, and no one who reads The Curious Reader would know who she is, this post ended my 45 year friendship. I have been "de-friended", if that is the term. I think what I've learned by some of her private e-mails sent as a result of this post that, although we were purported to be "best friends" for 45 years, as it turns out she really didn't like me very much. She didn't like my beliefs, my opinions, my ideas, my politics (or apparently, my writing.) I remember, very long ago, she thought I was very brave in that I would always stand up for what I believed. Even if it meant standing up to a professor. That has now become one of my many faults. People do not sever strong relationships over a failure to send stemware or over how many times one gets a comment on ones FB page. Which leads me to the only conclusion a reasonable person can make. It doesn't make me happy, I will admit. I'll go even further. It makes me quite sad. But looking at the larger picture, one can't lose for a second time something that was lost long ago.ReplyDelete
Oh Grad, the comment I'd like to leave here about your 'friend' contains all sorts of words that I don't think I should type out! How upsetting this sort of thing is, how derailing to our sense of dealing correctly with the world and belonging to little pockets of it. I can't believe that anyone would disagree that real friendship requires time, patience, tolerance and effort. Love is as love does. And I don't think that will ever change. I see my son keeping in touch with people via facebook every day, but his close friends are those he spends time with. I'm so sorry, but at the end of the day, you wouldn't want to surround yourself with false friends anyway. It's her loss, not yours. Sending big hugs.ReplyDelete
Litlove, thank you so much. I don't even recognize the person my friend described as being me in her personal e-mails. But that doesn't bother me too badly since no one else would recognize that person as me either. I hope she is not as angry or unhappy a person as she seems and I wish her well. Thanks for reaching out a hand of friendship to me. You are a uniquely gifted person and I am always honored when you chose to visit my little corner of the stratsophere.Delete
Grad, I'm having trouble commenting - will you look and see if my comment went into spam or just disappeared? Sending big hugs in the meantime!ReplyDelete
Good grief. I mean, literally, good grief; your thoughts about losing this alleged friend have made you (and me) think deeply about friendship, which is a terrific thing to do. I do know that there are people who are for some reason more comfortable with electronic communication; one of my dearest friends never responds to calls or letters but always does to emails. So I email her because I know she still loves me. But this person ... well, never mind, let's concentrate on more worthy people and things. Like your brother, who indeed sounds like a prince. Someday you'll come across those etched glasses in an unexpected corner of your house and LOL, my dear.ReplyDelete
Oh, Tinky, IMHO you are one of those gems I am lucky to have unearthed on the vast Internet. And that is no LOL! This experience will, I hope, make me a better friend and better listener. Every once in a while we have to stop and re-assess what and who are really important. Tempus fugit!ReplyDelete
Oh Grad, I am so sorry. Friendship requires more than FB comments and I don't think that is a dinosaur view. That this person had so much anger and resentment built up I can only believe it had something to do with her and nothing to do with you. Still, the lose is real and hurts and will take time to heal. Big hugs to you!ReplyDelete
P.S. I love writing letters so if you need some cheer in your mailbox, let me know! :)
Stefanie, I'll take those hugs. I think a nice weekend in the garden would also help raise my spirits. You and Bookman have inspired me. I would love another pen pal. Doctordi and Pete and I used to write, and I was planning on sending off a letter to Pete this week. I need to get Di's new address, though. Send me your address at email@example.com and I promise to write.ReplyDelete
Hi Grad, sorry to hear about the loss of such a long-standing friendship. It does sound as though she got her priorities all wrong though. So what if you didn't comment on her FB page? But after the anger subsides, it's still sad when a friendship like that ends. On a positive note, I was very happy to see that you're thinking of sending me a letter. Always a treat to get a letter from you :-)ReplyDelete
Pete, I've owed you a letter for a very long time, and I will make that right. I would also love to have you catch me up on what little Leah is up to as she grows and learns. I'll be in touch soon.ReplyDelete
Oh, and Pete. I am sending you best wishes belatedly for your birthday. I am following your reading challenge on Goodreads. I'm feeling a little pressured keeping up with my own challenge, but it's probably a good thing since it spurs me on.ReplyDelete
My darling Graddikins, this post makes me want to roar in your defence - I am so sorry. And letters are *not* dead, I refuse to let them die, although weirdly, especially in light of your post, the last handwritten letter I sent was to someone who stopped wanting to be my friend a long, long time ago...I truly don't know why I would waste my time and energy and lovely stationery on someone who patently doesn't care about me, but there you have it. Life is full of one-sided friendships and unresolved - in some cases unresolvable - hurt.ReplyDelete
Thank you for emailing me and shaking me out of my protracted silence. I hope you do write Pete a letter and that you consider forgiving my abandonment enough to pen me one too.
I feel a bit sorry for your friend...I think - can only conclude - she is very sad and angry about something that I'm positive is, in truth, nothing to do with you. Gosh, imagine harbouring resentment about an unreceived gift for 43 years... It's astonishing. Who in the world doesn't laugh and say, 'Sweetie, you mean you bought me something at all and lugged it all the way home? Gift enough for anyone!' But to throw it out as ammunition now...like I said, there's something else going on there. It's so sad when a friendship ends in such a bewildering fashion. Perhaps she'll lick her wounds, things will improve and she'll realise she's behaved abominably. But perhaps she won't, so I think your attitude is the only sane path. Wish her well, let her go, carry on. Sending loads of love, Di xxxx
Doctordi, you are such a good friend. I do realize that life has gotten very busy and we can get lazy about fostering our friendships...but we have let it get that way. Shortly after I was "de-friended" I happened upon a quote from Albert Einstein: "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." Pretty smart guy...with an adorably sexy moustache!ReplyDelete
Thank you, your article is very goodReplyDelete
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