The last surviving friendship from my childhood, dating back to when we were best friends at eight, is no more.   Both old friends are still alive, but one is too, what used to be called neurotic, to remain friends with the other.  There were specific issues that became unbearable to me, a series of unsuccessful attempts over the course of a few years to talk them through, and hurt, mutual silence for several years after that.   The most terrible death is the stubborn death in life of a once close relationship while both parties and their loved ones are alive for the shimmering moment we are given to breathe here.

Thinking about this estrangement, and my old friend’s basic decency and true inability to see his own role in angry conflict (he fancies himself so gentle, reasonable, meek) I decided to call and break the ice.  I sent him a text.   He wrote back that he was delighted to hear from me and it was only a few days before he was able to clear a 45 minute block on his busy schedule for us to talk.

During our talk I told him of a friend’s psychiatrist’s indisputable insight that our lives take place in a vast school where we either learn or don’t move out of sometimes crippling childhood pain.   Here are a few of his rules:

12. A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

13. People always do the best they can. If they are doing poorly, it is because they have not learned the lessons that will enable them to do better.

14. If you forget what you have learned, a refresher course will be presented to you.   You will take it.

15. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

One lesson I learned, I said, is that unless a friendship ends in violent, damaging attacks, it can probably be resumed.   My friendship with this guy ended in more or less mutual mildness.  Though we were both hurt and angry at each other, neither of us mauled the other at the end.  This, I told my old friend, was an encouraging sign going forward.  He agreed, told me he had to go, but that next time he’d tell me the revelations he’d had since last we talked.  I told him I looked forward to it.

We spoke once again, briefly, a month or so later.  He had no idea what revelations he could have been talking about, but it was great to be talking to each other again.  Last I heard from him.  

He has taken spiritual refuge with the Chabad community where the rabbi is wise and compassionate.   He prays every morning and studies the holy books.  I guess it didn’t occur to him that we should speak during the ten days of making amends when Jews are supposed to try to heal all past hurts and move forward in a better way.   True, I could have called him, but the idea of how hard it would have been to schedule must have made me put it off, especially while I am trying to save another old friendship that is not doing very well on its respirator.

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