Conversations that matter.

I had a friend once. Or, I thought I had a friend.

We met in childbirth class. It was her first pregnancy, my second. Both of us being young mothers in a new city, we soon became inseparable.

I am a homebody and she was a coming-over-body. Since I was more comfortable gathering in my home and she didn’t like anyone in hers, the synergy of us worked out great. Three or four times a week, we’d pass the monotonous days of raising little ones together, making life brighter for each other. We’d laugh. B*tch about our husbands. Go to estate sales.

I introduced her to the sales. She had a melt down at the first one. Upon seeing a balled-up pair of socks for sale, she cried, “Is this it? All that’s left of this person’s life? Just a pair of wadded-up socks?” But even with that, every Friday, you’d find us and our kids waiting at the door for the next sale to open.

With neither of us having kin in town, we quickly went from friend status to family. Our families celebrated the holidays together and developed our own traditions. Our children had built-in playmates that rivaled cousins.

It was so much fun!

Until it wasn’t.

My family is very intimate. There is nothing we don’t discuss. Hers wasn’t. When my daughter went from needing total mothering to becoming sort of a companion to me, things fell apart with my “friend.” I don’t know why. This is just a guess: Somehow, she thought she came first. And while she was definitely right up there, no one comes before my children, not even Funk.

He’s okay with that. She wasn’t.

And so we parted. Unexpectedly. Just before the agony of my daughter leaving me for college. One day I just heard a big whap on the porch that was loud enough to start me running from the back of my house to the front. But only in time to see her taillights peeling around the corner. Which is when I looked down and saw every single item I’d ever given her splayed out like entrails down the center line of a highway.

Me being me, I tried phoning to see what the hell was going on. She wouldn’t pick up. So I drove to her house. She wouldn’t answer the door. Fourteen years of family-like friendship and that was it. Death on my front porch. Hundreds of photos in albums just sitting there. Empty holidays. My children not knowing what happened. Was it a divorce? A death? Just a big fight that would resolve itself with time?

Who knows? When there was no conversation that mattered. No fighting for the relationship. Just one of us calling time.

It still blows my mind to think of, especially when you consider there’s an epidemic of loneliness in our country today. I can barely understand how that’s possible, until I recall this experience. The epidemic flourishes because it’s somehow more threatening to have difficult conversations than to be alone. Because superficial relationships, while empty, are more preferable than the scariness of going to the mat to save a real one.

The situation between my “friend” and I will surely be dealt with one day, but I don’t think that’ll happen until we’re both on the other side. And how sad is that.

Until then, I’ll just keep preaching the importance of relationships. How the most special ones, the most intimate ones, the most meaningful ones, the ones worth fighting for, all require talk. And tears. And, yes, even a lot of arguing. Because the only way around a problem is to go straight through it. Still, if both parties have the same goal of everyone feeling better at the end of a fight, there’s no way you can lose.

Here’s to you if you’re courageous enough to argue and fuss with yourself—and anyone else for that matter—until issues are resolved, because that is the only antidote to America’s epidemic of loneliness.

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