Saturday, March 28, 2009

Old Friends

This is a topic that has weighed heavy on my mind lately, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I work though it in writing. Here goes nothin’ . . .

Jeff had a lot of friends. What’s more–he was particularly adept not just at making friends, but at keeping them. Jeff had lifelong friends from elementary school, high school, college and beyond–some of whom he contacted regularly and others just from time to time, but all of them, without exception, were good friends–meaning they were responsive and genuinely cared about him and could fall into easy conversation regardless of the time lapse between contacts. Throughout the years, Jeff’s friends evolved into "our" friends as "his" friends benevolently adopted me, or at least accepted me, as part of their friendship with Jeff. It never really occurred to me that his death would change all that.

After Jeff died, I made a calculated effort to remain friends with "his" friends and mostly for one reason: these people know things about Jeff that I do not. They know him from a perspective and in a context that I do not. They have shared experiences with Jeff that I did not share. So, they are the exclusive keepers of very valuable information about my children’s father that may be either instructive, comforting, confirming, or otherwise useful to them someday. I figured, that if I remained friends with Jeff’s friends, I would preserve that nexus between my children and their father that I could not otherwise preserve or even simulate, and that by fostering these friendships, Jeff’s friends might be willing to someday share stories about Jeff with my kids without it seeming unnatural or contrived.

Well, let’s just say I think I may be wrong about that. Despite my efforts to remain connected to "Jeff’s" friends, I have had only isolated and temporary success, at best. I have sent e-mails and cards, blog comments, Myspace messages, and phone calls to 8 or 9 targeted individuals. Responses come slowly, if at all, and when they do, they generally do not invite further discourse. Two individuals have responded only to say they are too busy to respond but that they are glad the kids and I are doing well . . .

I don’t mean to complain--I know people are busy. Believe me–I have four kids and two jobs (if you count the band) and three household employees and vehicles and a yard and house to maintain and . . . I get it. I just took for granted how far out on the periphery of Jeff’s inner circle I am now that he is gone. I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, I didn’t have personal relationships with any of these people but for the fact I was Jeff’s wife, so it probably seems either desperate or creepy for me to pester them now that we have no common denominator. But, it makes me sad because I feel like if these friendships die on the vine, my kids will have lost a meaningful connection to their father.

And, I have to admit–I’m sad for me, too. Jeff’s friends, as a class, are some of the neatest and most interesting people I’ve ever known. It would flatter me immeasurably to think they would choose me as a friend independent of Jeff simply because I genuinely like them as individuals and like talking to them and being around them–they are smart, funny, and of unfailing good character. Who couldn’t stand to have a few friends like that?

Well, the point of this blog isn’t to bemoan the fact I have no friends of my own (I do–Hi, Liz!), but I felt it worth making the foregoing observations to put what follows in the proper context . . .

I was getting discouraged by my unsuccessful attempts to convert "Jeff’s" friends to "my" friends when I received an e-mail this week out of the blue from one of my former sorority sisters. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I was in a sorority in college-- Delta Delta Delta. For those of you who are surprised, I’ll tell you I was also a high school cheerleader and a finalist in the Miss Nebraska Pageant. . . there, my public humiliation is complete!) Anyway, my sorority sister, Michelle, had recently had her will prepared by Andrew who is an attorney in Omaha and a college friend of mine. Andrew learned Michelle was a Tri-Delt and mentioned to Michelle that he knew a Tri-Delt once and as they chatted they realized it was me that they knew in common.

Michelle gathered enough information from Andrew to find me on-line and e-mailed me. Since last Tuesday, Michelle has connected me with nearly a dozen of my former college friends. Today, I e-mailed two of my very best college friends and roommates after losing touch with them for nearly 15 years. I’m desperate to hear back from them, and hope news of Jeff’s death (they both knew him and were even involved in our wedding) will not make responding too uncomfortable or awkward. (I’m beginning to appreciate that death does that sometimes).

So, the happy ending is that just as I was starting to feel sorry for myself for losing "Jeff’s" friends, "my" friends found me. I think it is more than a coincidence and I marvel that they would miraculously re-enter my life just when I needed them most. So, this blog is for them and in thanks that they reached out to me despite the fact we haven’t talked in 15 years and despite the fact they are busy and despite not knowing the terrible news I would introduce and despite any other excuse they might have that would easily justify simply remembering me vaguely and passing me by. Thank you, thank you, thank you–it means more than you can possibly know.

So, that’s all. Until next time. . .
Kelly

8 comments:

Oh well, hey! said...

Kelly -

I don't know you - only through your blog and what a beautiful tribute and family you have. I "found" you through an old college friend asking for prayers for your husband on facebook. Your blog and family have touched my heart and I keep you in prayer. This blog particularly struck a chord with me and I hope others as well. We should reach out and help create a legacy and yes, death can be ackward, but it can also teach us so much. I haven't lost a husband, but I have a mom and a marriage ... you learn so much and in time the memories flood in with happiness and I pray for you that in time those friends that are too busy realize that Jeff touched their lives and they are forever changed and they too should take the OPPORTUNITY to touch his children's and wife's life as well. Okay - off my soap box ... hope it makes sense!

Terri said...

I have found that people are busy doing NOTHING!!! When people say they are too busy, that is a BIG fat excuse!!! #1 Because people are never too busy for people they care about, or too busy to simply send a quick email, I call that being lazy, so to all of those people that are too busy... WAKE UP EARLIER!!! and #2 busy, define busy, because I'm sure people's interpretations of busy vary just like people's definiton of stress vary. I have had people tell me they are busy getting ready for tomorrow (what ever the hell that means) bottom line is people make themselves busy with things that should not occupy their time at ALL. And anyone who knows you should know that the "I'm busy" excuse should not fly with you because you are probably busier than them in the first place and if you have time to write then they should too.
On a different note, I want to say Happy "I am in control" Day, so go celebrate and enjoy yourself.

Michelle said...

Kelly,

This entry brings tears to my eyes. I have used your story many time over the past week to bring perspective to my own life.

Thanks,
Michelle

Mary M Clay said...

Kelly: Great blog and please keep them coming...I love reading them!

Terri: Preach on! I couldn't have said it better myself. Very well put!!

TheRamFam said...

Kelly,

I just want you to know that the contingent of "Jeff's Friends" that is the ND Club of Milwaukee, and specifically those that served with him on the board, will always consider you and the kids not just "friends" but members of the Notre Dame Family (depite your unfortunate Marquette affliction). Feel free to reach out to me or any of us in the club when you are looking for someone to help share Jeff's passion for all things Notre Dame with the kids.

Sincerely,

Tom

PJ said...

I'm glad you are rediscovering old friends. I hope you know that Jeff's 'immediate family' from Notre Dame will always be available for your family. I know I speak for at least Kevin, Mark, and Aaron when I say: We think about you, pray for you and are willing to help any way we can. I would love to get your kids to Notre Dame - for a game or otherwise, meet with my kids, enjoy the campus, etc. Just say when.

PJ

Anonymous said...
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Kerry (Hanigan) Benes said...

Kelly,
I may have come to know you through Jeff, during our high school reunions, but I do consider you a friend. started reading/posting on your blog to keep in touch with Jeff, to show him support. Through the years, I've come to know and love your whole family. I would be proud to call you friend.
I still check it and often think about posting comments. (I'm just afraid it would be weird since you probably don't remember me.) Reading your blog makes me laugh, sometimes cry, but always reminds me that other families are as quirky as mine.
As the song goes, "You got a friend in me." (Is the Toy Story reference to vague?)