Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TING AND I, Our Friends

Tina has made friendships that have lasted for decades. From high school there are Nancy, Mary, and Jan, who still write. From Cornell, Deanne and Judy and Elaine. Some from the period of her first marriage write at Christmas, but divorce puts a strain on friendships, as the affection for one or both members of a couple raises questions of loyalty once the couple breaks up. No friends remain from our Bedford Mews years. Wendy and Zane, Ruth and Mal, friends from Ledgewood Commons, still frequently call or write, with occasional visits. Erica Shapiro from those days would still do so, but she died a few years ago, a friend to the end. No one from the seven years in Ramsey, NJ (1993– 2000) is still in touch, though Dolores Daley was good to Tina before she, too, died.

Interesting to me are those seeming friendships that did not last. From grade school, Polly was Tina’s close friend. Wealthy and pretty, she went through several marriages. She visited us when Tina was paraplegic. The visit seemed to have gone well. We never heard from her again. She is now a California girl. I mean, woman.

Pasha and Nilo in Bedford Mews had two children, one being roughly Phil’s age. We enjoyed their company, and they seemed to enjoy ours. He was an MD, and both were of middle-Eastern origins. After we moved, we corresponded a bit, but it became clear their attention was elsewhere. Other MDs or Middle-Easterners?

Tina was still ambulatory then; and Harry and Amy, parents of Phil’s friend Scott, were friends of ours while we were there in Millwood, and the boys were buddies. But when we moved away, our relationship ended. The same thing happened with Grant and Amy, a marriage of a Japanese-American editor and an American “princess.”

We made fewer friendships in Ramsey, during most of which time Tina was paraplegic. The mixed-race nature of our family could have been a factor, but I think it was more that people are made uncomfortable being in the presence of those with evident disabilities. Also, the focus of our lives on handling the special circumstances attending her disabilities gives us a different set of interests and priorities and leaves relatively little time or energy to engage in exchanging favors and doing things with others outside the home.

My friendships were not as many, nor generally as enduring, as Tina’s. Phil from high school (see “Tributes”) has written often and visited when he and Ginny come north, annually. Male friends from Cornell, Penn State, and Harvard have all gone their separate ways, with only George Nash from Harvard graduate school still in contact. Co-worker John from Penn State died a few years ago, but had remained in touch. Good man to the end. For a decade, four of us from my last employer have lunched monthly near Ramsey. John, Kathy, and Howard have been my faithful friends. At lunch, three of us try to show Howard the errors of his political views. Several of the women from my past have contacted me through the Internet, which was flattering. Thanks, but no thanks. Were our roles reversed, I would not want Tina on too-friendly terms with other men.

Here at Lake Osiris, we have friendly acquaintanceships. Would any persist if we moved?

Even familial relationships are tenuous. Careers lead to separations. Misunderstandings, slights and problematic in-laws can hurt feelings. Preserving communication and affection proves to be difficult.

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