Before I go, I have something to say

Forgiving Gwen

The strangest thing has happened, now that I’ve joined Facebook. A person who used to be very important to me, the one I most often referred to as my “best friend,” has resurfaced. I don’t mean she has asked to “friend” me – hardly that. I don’t expect that will ever happen. She dumped me several years ago, in fact. It wasn’t the first time, and instead of going meekly, as I did the first time, I let her have it, sending her a letter that was singed with the smoke coming out of my ears as I pounded it out on the keyboard. You think you’ve had it with ME? Well, I’ve had it with YOU, too!

Ahem. It’s more than a little embarrassing to admit to acting like a spurned seventh grader at my advanced age, but you know, the older I get, the more I realize that those fundamental emotions of love, hate, resentment, jealousy, anger (stop me any time), bewilderment, and hurt don’t exactly mellow with age. So when a friend you’ve treasured since junior high sends you an email saying she’d really like to call it quits for some really lame reasons, it feels more than a little like not being chosen for the popular team in recess volleyball.

Every so often, after that, my husband would carefully inquire if I might be ready to wave the white flag in Gwen’s (not her real name) general direction. “NO!” I would snap, and that would be the end of it. After all, she started it, and she could just as easily wave her own bleached hanky at me.

I’ll admit, when I first joined Facebook, she was among the old friends whose pages I looked up. Some people elect to keep most of their information private, but not Gwen. She even provided a photo, showing her (showing off, if you ask me) standing with a big smile on her face in front of the Parthenon. The one in Greece. It figures, since she teaches mythology. I even sat in on the class once, when I was visiting her in New Mexico.

I loved the place where she lived. I went there so many times, it felt like my home away from home. I still remember how good it smelled there, the scent of mesquite in the pure desert air. I figured I might live there someday, too.

We met in seventh grade, as I said. We bonded in French class, but we became close friends the summer we went to the Mississippi Valley Fair with our boyfriends, whom we dropped that night for two other, cuter, guys from school we ran into there. I kept a calendar of that summer, and at its end we sat on the phone going over every day, every big and little thing we did together. It didn’t hurt that we had our first cars that summer. Free to go seemingly anywhere, we mostly went there together.

We went to different colleges, and she married early. Still, we wrote letters, and when my first marriage turned violent, it was Gwen and her first husband who bailed me out, ordering tickets for me and my kids so we could fly from Denver to Philadelphia. But her husband decided he was in love with me after my brief stay, and soothed his guilty conscience by confessing, at which point she dropped me like a hot potato. I didn’t hear a thing from her for years.

Then along came a thing called the Internet, and e-mail, and one day at work I found in my inbox a missive from Gwen – something I’d been hoping for much more than I realized. It was so easy to pick up where we left off, bringing each other up to speed on divorces (both of us), new marriages (hers), moves (hers out West, mine back to Iowa). The hug we gave each other on my first trip out there felt so good.

And so it went, with annual visits, countless emails, all the bounty of a solid friendship. When her mother died and the funeral was held in Illinois, I drove three hours to be there. When I met the man who would become my second husband, he came along on my next trip west.

Then came the letter. The second dumping. There must be a better word for it, but that’s how it felt. Still feels. Every time my husband asks if I’m ready to reach out, I hardly have to think about it. The hurt is always fresh, the answer is always  “no.” When I first saw her picture on a post to a mutual friend’s Facebook page, I was startled, and could only wonder what her own reaction was when she saw my photo on Joyce’s page. I’ll admit, when I post to Joyce now, I think about Gwen reading it.

Is this childish? Or am I slowly, painfully, beginning to allow this old friend back into my life? At least thinking about thinking about it? I know all about forgiveness, how not forgiving hurts the person with the grudge – the grudger, if you will — much more than the grudgee. But what’s next? Send her a friend request? What if she ignores it? What if it just sits there, unacknowledged, for weeks, for years?

Who knows, maybe she reads my columns. She could find it easily by Googling me. If so, well, heh heh. Hi, “Gwen.” How are you? Ready to bury the hatchet yet? I don’t know about you, but it’s getting pretty heavy on my end. I’ll put mine down if you’ll – oh, phooey. I’ve already put mine down. Whenever you’re ready, it’s fine by me.

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