An old college friend sent me a FaceBook request the other day. This isn’t unusual – I’ve only been “on” FaceBook for a couple of months now and I’ve been receiving a lot of “friend requests.” For the uninitiated, you have to be officially friends with someone for them to view your FaceBook information. You can find people you know through groups like your high school or college or what have you. When you find someone you know, you send a request that they add you as a friend. Once you’re friends, you can look at their list of friends and see if there’s anyone you know and want to add. Several people I haven’t talked to in twenty years have found me and it’s been fun to catch up. This person, who contacted me the other day: not so much.
I’m surprised she wanted to “friend” me. She has refused to see or talk to me for years. Before that, when we did communicate, she acted mean. Inserted little digs about me. Made herself generally disagreeable by doing pissy things.
I’m not stupid. I can take a hint – eventually. When only her husband (both were good friends – I introduced them) returned my voice message and wanted to visit with me when I was last in town, I asked him what her problem was. He said I’d have to take it up with her. I said, no, it was her anger, thus incumbent on her to bring it to me. Later, he sent me a very cold letter. Like I said, it takes me a while, but I’m not an idiot. I wrote them off as no longer friends of mine.
Three years later, she asks to be my FaceBook friend. I stared at the choices: Accept or Ignore. So far, in a rush of bonhomie, I’d accepted everyone, even friends of friends, who I haven’t met. I’ve friended people in high school who wouldn’t have noticed me in the school hallways. Why she wanted this friendship when she’d thrown the real one away, I didn’t know. Except that I know some people track their count of friends: at last a score for social connectedness. But I’d made my decision about her place in my life long ago. I clicked Ignore.
I’m thinking about this as I fly to North Carolina, place of my father’s birth. And, coincidentally, his death, nearly 40 years ago. My grandparents are gone, but his brother still lives there, along with his wife and two adult sons. In years past, when I’ve traveled to the area, we’ve met for dinner. I went out for a family reunion a few years ago. This time, I haven’t called. The last contact I had was went my uncle emailed me a photo of my younger cousin’s college graduation, though I received no other announcement. I called my cousin to offer my congratulations. I mailed him a card with a generous check. Cashed without a word.
I’m no longer part of their world, as I was when the boys were younger. As I was before both sons decided to devote themselves to ministry. Before my aunt made it clear how much she disapproved of my godless lifestyle. The part of me that’s still 12 years old, is stunned that they don’t seem to love me anymore.
I suppose it’s part of life, the pruning back of connections. People can be friends for a while and the friendship can die, or be cut away. Family members move in different directions. It’s maybe one of the great lies of love, that it cannot die. Love dies just as we do, from neglect and starvation, from disease, from critical trauma. No matter the venue, death arrives. In the end, they’re all natural causes. And nature can be cruel.