Independence Days

Tonight we had dinner outside at a local Greek restaurant, sitting in exactly the same spot as we did one year ago today, licking the last few walnuts off of the baklava fork as the sky darkened and the lights started flickering.

I felt wistful when the fireworks started, because it reminded me of previous July 4th get to-gethers with friends of ours…who are no longer friends of ours. They used to live about a mile down the road from us, but moved to a more rural area about three years ago.We had colorful and often hilarious bar-b-ques that took place in a backyard that was a garden of beautiful and well-cared for plants and flowers. Tim and Ivy were an interesting couple who emanated a certain austerity. One that was amusing, more than offensive, because it was such a contrast to our excess. While they may never have taken a vacation for most of their 20 year marriage, they did own their house outright, had no debt (or children), which provided a certain amount of independence that, in our view, was not enjoyed as fully as possible.

I always felt a certain kinship with Tim, because we both had grown up with volatile fathers and mothers who had fallen ill far too prematurely. He was never able to shake-off the guilt that her illness had brought about and he was committed to putting rocks in his knapsack, ensuring that every climb up the stairs would be as arduous as possible. Physical pain made him feel better in a curious sort of way, so along with the austerity thing, it made perfect sense that they never turned on the heat in the winter. Tim and Ivy were an interesting couple, because they seemed so different on the surface. In truth, I think their marriage has been able to endure because Ivy has such simple needs. She, even more so than Tim, has no desire to travel or see the world. She is content to work, read, knit, care for the house, and pay the bills.

Tonight I thought about them and wondered if they ever think about us, and miss the 4-5 hour dinners that usually contained at least 30 minutes of strained expression of divergent political views. Tim was a staunch conservative, who was paranoid and angry. Ivy, on the other hand, was actually quite socially liberal and it was often difficult to understand how two such different people could sustain a life together.

For awhile, Tim did freelance audio-visual for my company, and our “break-up” came about over a work-related ¬†misunderstanding.With Tim, there was no middle ground. You were either friends or you were enemies, and he had a very low threshold for ambivalence. He had been in bands for many years, and one day he decided that he didn’t like the work ethic of a particular guitarist and packed-up all of the equipment that wasn’t his own and left it on the back porch to be picked-up the next morning.

Over the last few years, usually around this time, I have wanted to send them photos that I took of their house and garden right before they moved. Whenever I bring this up, my husband says, “that ship sailed.” But where did it sail exactly? Are some friendships truly of a certain vintage?

As difficult as it is, I have come to understand and accept the necessity of endings. I try not to take them personally and view them more objectively, but it isn’t easy. I think of the symbolism of the Hindu “vajra” (metal weapon or small sword). I remember once being at a seminar led by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman. He was talking about the vajra and how it separated things that were no longer meant to be connected, stressing the freedom and independence that resulted in the act of severance.

I imagine that the writing and publishing of my recent book may propel some frayed ends to finally snap. While I am saddened by this, it also confers a sense of relief, and perhaps, a subtle independence from the past, and that which is no longer relevant to who I am today.

Now it is my turn to deal with ambivalence, i.e., not being too distracted by not knowing if they miss us as much as I miss them.

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1 Comment

Filed under Friends

One response to “Independence Days

  1. Holly

    Very moving. Are friendships meant to last forever? If a couple is married 20 years and then divorce, is that a “failure”? Maybe now that we’re living so long, definitions need to be adjusted? That said, if you and your ex-friends did have 4-5 hour dinners filled with both laughter and tense political discussions, I don’t see how they could not miss you two/too…

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