“Let me ponder this simple question, am I a good friend.”
That’s the question I was left off with last night in my mind. Am I a good friend? On paper I would probably say no. In reality I would say, “to some.” There are at least as many out there who hate me as who love me. The number those two opposites share, and even the sum between them, is nothing compared to the number of those I’ve met regularly who hold me with zero regard. When I was Adam32‘s age, that realization would have devastated me. To Adam42 it’s simply a matter of fact, and needless to change. I do wish I was a better friend still, that’s a trait we share, but the taxation of life’s responsibilities, and the toll of age and experience has left me on a budget of spirit.
Adam42 has to look back at Adam32 tonight and try to glean in the most unbiased way possible whether they could be friends if they met today.
I’m playing my own version of Looper, but instead of going back in time to kill myself, I’m going back in time to see if I’d want to strangle myself. And I’ll try to make this brief, because yesterday went on quite a bit.
Adam32 and Adam42 share a sense of humor. Adam32‘s is maybe a bit more carefree and enthusiastic than Adam42‘s, but they’re still fundamentally the same. I think they’d feed off each other in that way. But it’s also possible they’d hate each other for stealing each other’s jokes and making each of them feel like they’re not funny. Then they’d get self-conscious, and then they’d just have to leave.
Either is possible, honestly.
This question is one I thought a lot about after I finished last night, and throughout today, and it’s something I don’t know if I have an answer to give to you.
I’m sorry, that’s a lie. I do have an answer to give to you, but I’d like to avoid it as long as possible.
Adam42 takes issue with Adam32.
Adam32 was tired of being at the beck and call of his father. Adam32 wanted to be free from all this so he could pursue his life. Dad was hard to deal with. We got into some absolutely furious arguments over the course of his illnesses. Especially when he started getting some paranoid dementia. Adam32 was ready for this to be over.
Adam42 wants to slap him in the mouth.
Adam32 would avoid seeing his father sometimes because it would just be so depressing. Adam32 would screen phone calls from his father later in life. Adam32 found excuses to not go see his father after he moved to L.A. because he hated seeing how much Dad would degrade from visit to visit, year after year.
Adam42 wants to punch him in the nose.
Adam32 is the person who mentally drafted a version of his father’s eulogy that was all about how crummy his Dad was. Adam32 is the person who pissed away countless hours that he could have spent with his father. Adam32 is the person who decided to put Dad on hospice.
Adam42, or at least some part of Adam42‘s lizard brain, has a hard time forgiving him for that.
Don’t get me wrong, it was the right decision. Adam32 was absolutely correct to put his father on hospice, and Adam42 agrees with the decision. Adam42 harbors more resentment over the hours Adam32 wasted not seeing his father that Adam42 would nearly kill for. And the worst part is that Adam32 didn’t even get it. He was selfish and immature. He was focused on the short term and was blind to the long term. If he knew then what Adam42 knows now…
Adam32 was focused on escapism. He didn’t have a solid job, was behind in his career, was overweight, and felt he wasn’t worth much in general. He wanted to chase girls, play with his friends, and feel like a grown up. It was a feeling he didn’t have much. He’d lived a good deal of his 20’s at his mom’s house, picking up odd jobs where he could, but generally being unemployed. He watched all his friends get jobs, apartments, relationships, CHILDREN, and still he was in a bit of a vacuum. Dad was increasingly becoming the antithesis of escapism. Adam32 had periods of resentment. Not long, but real.
I understand everything Adam32 went through and did, and I understand his reasoning. I just wish he had been a little more prescient. I would love to have had the time he tried so hard to shed. We come at this picture from such opposite corners, I don’t know if we could find common ground.
The quote at the top of this post says that the author is stitched by the thread of absence, threaded through the needle of himself. I’m equally stitched by the thread of absence, but the needle is isn’t me, it’s Adam32. The scars I carry from the puncture wounds of his stitching, pressed through my flesh by way of his short-sightedness, I will carry the rest of my life.
I don’t hate him. I understand him. But I don’t know how well I could tolerate him. I would want to grab him and shake him. I’d slap him hard across his cherubic cheek and say, “I know this is hard, but I need for you to pull your head clean out of your ass and look at the long game here. I need you to not take this for granted.”
I also know he wouldn’t listen. He’d take it to heart, but he ultimately wouldn’t listen. And I can’t change that.
The absence of Dad is the thread, and Adam32 is the needle, however, maybe I can look at this a different way. A thread and needle are used to stitch up a larger wound. Perhaps the larger wound was my immaturity. Maybe the last painful throes of an evolution partly delayed by the unrelenting ravages of cancer. Maybe I should be glad I have those scars.
Maybe, just maybe, I’d react in an altogether different way to Adam32.
Oh, I’d still slap him in the chops, and I’d shake him angrily because he needs it. But maybe I’d also grab him and hold him. Maybe I’d tell him this fucking sucks all the way around. Maybe I’d give him permission to cry into my shoulder the way he cried the last time he saw Dad alive and his dad said in an almost unintelligible voice, “I hate this.” And he answered back, “I do too.” Maybe I’d tell him I forgive him for the time he wasted, but I’d love to have taken a day or two off his hands. I don’t know if we would have ultimately been friends, but I think we would have taken each other’s calls.
Or at least called back reasonably soon after having screened one another to voicemail.