Fortunately for me I'm pretty resilient. Always have been, and let me tell you it's a skill. Throughout my life I’ve been continually amazed by other people’s apparent ability to completely cut off relations with some people. Unfortunately for me I've been the one cut completely off on more than a few occasions. Here are some of the highlights:
Back in the summer of 2008 we were taking our son and doing vacation stuff for three weeks before he started junior kindergarten. We told everyone that needed to know, and even let our son have a long conversation with his grandmother as they wouldn’t have a chance to chat for some time. We left for the first trip – an 8-day excursion to the US for a rally to do with our old classic motorcycles and other enthusiasts. On our return my son wanted to tell his grandma about the trip. I dialed the number for him and got an out-of-service recording. I tried again thinking I’d misdialed, but same result. I tried her boyfriend and left a message that her phone appeared to be out of order and asked him to get her to call us. Crickets. We left on part two of our vacay, which was a short four days away this time. On our return there was still no contacting my mother, which was weird.
A few days later my brother called and told me she’d changed her number and didn’t want me to have it. Her mental illness had obviously caught up with her because the reason was that I apparently asked her to babysit all the time and she was tired of it. I asked him if he was sure she meant me because our sister has 4 kids and lives in the same city. I, on the other hand, had only one child (born on mom’s birthday yet!!) and since I lived a 3-hour drive away I had never asked her to babysit. Not even once. My son was heartbroken because he thought grandma didn’t love him anymore. When her illness swung the other way months later, she sent Christmas gifts through my sister and I made her take them back. Mom’s mental illness had messed with my head all through my youth and I wasn’t going to have her playing her games with my son. That was almost 14 years ago now.
Almost 4 years ago my father and his wife (who were 70 at the time) decided to take my son on a 3-week long road trip to western Canada. By way of background here, my husband has complex PTSD and it has affected my son as he was only not quite 8 when it happened. For most of his young life his dad has been a distant, unhappy, sometimes silent, often angry, person. It’s hard enough to deal with for me as an adult, so our son, who simply isn't old enough to have developed the same resiliency, has had his own issues – i.e., overly sensitive, not reacting with proportional anger, sadness, etc. to situations, and so on. I tried to educate my dad and his wife on how to manage some of the inevitable situations they would see, but they pretty much ignored me. I truly wish they’d listened! During my nightly calls nobody let on that life wasn’t all tickity boo. At the end of three weeks, they were going to be back a day earlier than I expected. I offered them our spare room for the night so they could rest after a full day of travel, but they refused. Instead they asked if I could meet them in the small city near us so they wouldn't have to drive the extra half hour to our place in the country. We had dinner at Swiss Chalet and I paid to thank them for their taking him on the trip. Afterwards they all but ran away in their haste to get on the road. Then my son explained some of the trip’s travails to me on the drive home, but it wasn’t until a few days later my dad called to let me know my son had expressed his wish to be dead. I assured him my son was not suicidal.
On questioning my son, I discovered that he would try to talk or tell them something and be pretty much ignored or spoken over. (My stepmother can be pretty intense when she gets going and her narrow view of the world doesn’t allow that a child can have anything too important to say, or have too much knowledge. This despite my own membership in Mensa and my son's own advanced intelligence.) My son was frustrated and said he’d be better off dead than being ignored. Surprisingly my folks never followed up on their “concern” over his possible suicide intentions. I know they were upset at spending so much time apparently arguing with my son. As I explained to them, they had only to call me and talk to me about it and I could have (1) settled it up on the phone, or (2) arranged for a flight and have them drop him at an airport. I told them their expectations were unrealistic. Ten years before they had taken my stepmother’s two grandchildren out east and had a perfect trip. Well, for one thing, that was ten years ago. They were only 60 then. For another thing, they practically raised those two kids and it was unrealistic to expect my son, who they only saw maybe a maximum of six times a year due to geography, to behave the same way. Not only was he an entirely different person, but they didn’t really know the person he was. It didn’t matter what I said. They cut off contact in the summer of 2018.
Last December I reached out to a friend who lives in the large city that’s three hours drive from me. Her birthday is just before Christmas and I wanted to wish her a happy birthday. She didn’t answer and I left a message, singing Happy Birthday to her. I thought nothing of her not answering because she could have been working or at an audition, or any number of things, and I figured she’d call back soon. Crickets. Nothing for days. I tried again. Still no answer. This time I followed up with a text message. No answer again, so I figured I’d send her an email and ask if she was okay. By now I was getting worried that I hadn’t heard anything from her. I couldn't even drive to her place because I knew she'd given up her apartment in the summer and I had no idea where she'd landed. Covid was doing its best to kill off anyone in its path and I was concerned for her, even though she is pretty OCD about germs. Now it so happened that she had a friend who worked in the film industry and who had emailed me a personal video message from the actor who played Will Riker in STNG. (I'm a fan.) As a result I had the friend’s email address. I knew how crazy she was about keeping her friends separate, but I was worried, so I reached out to him and asked if he had heard from her and to please ask her to call me as I was concerned.
The next thing I knew I got a text from her claiming she was unwell and then proceeding to berate me for contacting him, claiming I’d betrayed her trust, etc. I told her how I had managed to “track him down” and why and suggested that instead of flinging accusations she might consider that my concern might have come from a place of love. I told her that I’d never been less than a friend to her (truth be told I was always a better friend to her than she was to me). I told her she should understand my concern as she knew very well I’d lost 7 friends that year to cancer, heart attack, and even covid, but that if she wanted to finish it off by shitting all over me for being worried about her, just let me know not to bother with her anymore and I wouldn’t. Crickets. She cut me off. She never replied and now 11 months later I think she may regret her harsh words and actions and just doesn’t know how to apologize. Call me stubborn on this one, but I can’t make the first move on this one. I’m still hurt. She needs to be the one to reach out. I tried and was ignored.
On one hand you have my mother and my father, both have cut off all relations. It hurts a lot when family does that, especially my dad. Then on the other hand you have a friend of 16 years, who when we met, was heartbroken over a mutual friend who had died before they’d reconciled some argument. Perhaps I’m seeing a trend with that friend now that I think about it. Still, we had 16 years invested into that relationship and she tossed it away like so much trash she didn’t need.
I can only just shake my head at what might have been in each case. My mother has completely missed my kid's school years. My father has missed out on seeing him move from little boy into a man. My former friend? She's missed having someone in her corner, who had her back, someone to laugh with, remember old friends with, the whole gamut. It's really her loss when you get down to it. Still...