Old Dead Friendships and Such

Despite repeatedly falling asleep while watching Stay Close, a “limited series” on Netflix, I subsequently managed to stay awake until about 2 a.m. And that late night resulted in me saying in bed until the sun began peeking over the horizon this morning. When I get out of bed so late, I feel like I’ve wasted half the day. It’s now past 7:30. I sense I cannot possibly accomplish all I intended today because of my slovenly ways. Late to bed and late to rise robs a man of wealth and exercise. Or something like that. Yet it’s so damn cold out that I doubt I would be out and about doing anything productive, regardless of when I went to bed or when I got up. Some days, it’s best to just go with the flow.


One of the reasons I increasingly avoid going to CNN’s website can be found in the link from its main news page this morning: “Martha Stewart reveals why she broke it off with Anthony Hopkins.” For the love of God, this is news? Pardon me while I slit my wrists. My friend, Deanna, suggests that avoiding news is good for one’s mental health. I am certain she is right.



A guy I grew up with, starting in elementary school and going all the way through high school and a bit beyond, got in touch with me by email a couple of days ago. He noted in his message that he came across an email I sent to him in January 2012; he wondered what’s been going on with me during the past ten years. I was the one who looked him up back then. The email to which he referred was the last of a few we sent back and forth beginning a month or two earlier. Until that brief exchange, we had not been in touch since before we graduated from college—him from Texas A&M, me from the University of Texas at Austin.

His unexpected message triggered thoughts about other friendships that either dried up for lack of intellectual or emotional fuel or, conversely, burst into flames before turning into embers. What—in the ignorance of youth during my last two years of high school—I thought was a close friendship fell into both categories of dissolution. That other friend and I agreed, immediately upon high school graduation and before we moved to Austin to start school in the summer, that we would share an apartment that first summer, then would room together in a dorm for the fall and winter semesters. I learned, within only a few weeks after we moved into the apartment, that we were not really compatible. Somehow, I had not realized before then that he just wasn’t very bright. And his primary interest in going away to school was to drink and party. I was interested in both, too, but not to the exclusion of academic pursuits. Consequently, almost immediately, our friendship withered. As the summer wore on, his failure acknowledge that I had an occasional right to peace and quiet caused what might have remained of a friendship to explode into a fireball of loathing. Long before the summer was out, our plans to share a dorm room had burned to ashes.

My classmate’s email brought to mind an adult-timeframe friendship that turned to volcanic ash. This more recent friendship dissolved after I called my friend’s attention to the hollowness of her repeated promises she always would be available to me 24/7; any time I needed a friend’s support. I had confronted her empty commitment before, only to hear a response saying I was merely misinterpreting circumstances. The last time, my anger and disappointment at yet another vacuous promise sparked repeated enraged replies from her, during which she accused me of mistreating her. This, from a woman who claimed she would always be “just a phone call away” at a time I needed someone to talk to in the aftermath of my wife’s death—but who repeatedly let days go by before returning a phone call or a text message, if indeed they were returned at all. I realized that, yet again, I had misunderstood: I was again simply a convenient acquaintance who could fill rare empty time for her, not  a friend who deserved respect. Fortunately for me, I was never in the throes of existential angst when I left those ignored messages. But the fact they were ignored demonstrated I could not count on help when and if I ever needed it. I may be unrealistic in expecting both steadfast commitments and unwavering follow-through on them. Yet I think my friends can reasonably expect both from me. Perhaps I’ve permitted a nonsensically romantic notion of friendship to interfere with life in the real world. That may be me. So be it. Better to strive to emulate Don Quixote than Niccolò Machiavelli.

Back to my old friend’s email. Though we’ve not remained friends—more like long lost acquaintances—it was good to get his message and to learn that, from what he says, his life has been good this last ten year period. It sounds to me like he is enjoying his children, his grandchildren, and even his career, which he says he will continue until he reaches his seventieth birthday. Personally, I am very, very happy I retired at 58. I would have been very happy ten years earlier if I had been able to retire at 48.


We picked up some garage shelving yesterday from Sam’s Club. One day, when the temperatures return to levels suitable for human survival, we will erect the shelf units in our new garage. Then, we will begin moving “stuff” from the current house’s garage to the new one. This renovation and move will be a slow motion project. That’s fine. It will keep me busy. And it will keep me exercising muscles that haven’t been used in years. I can feel those muscles and their supporting joints. I look forward to the time I will no longer feel the aches and, instead, will feel the strength those aches will give me.


OMG. It’s after 8! I have to get with it or the day will pass me by.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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