Don’t give up hope on friendships lost by past mistakes

I’m going to be friends with everybody!” That was me, age 6, after my first day of kindergarten, as my mother tells the story.

I don’t remember this, but if I understand anything about myself — and what I perceived to be important as a 6-year-old — at the time I believed having as many friends as possible was a noble thing to strive for, not a naïve one.

As I grew up, I learned how foolish that scrawny kindergartener really was.

Being “popular” wasn’t one of my strong suits in school. Where other kids excelled in sports or flirting, my brain was my trump card.

My noggin ensured I was always near the top of the test scores. Although there wasn’t a high-five waiting for me around every corner, the popular kids knew of the guy who just marginally surpassed them on that geometry exam.

It became increasingly clearer to me that making friends wasn’t even nearly as critical as keeping the ones I already had.

And boy, when you lose your best friend, there are few, if any, pains that compare.

The root of destruction appeared freshman year. Suddenly I wasn’t seeing my best buddy every day. No longer did we crack jokes in between band rehearsals. College took us a hundred miles in opposite directions.

Both occupied with trying to adjust to new atmospheres, we grew complacent with our communication. Eventually, one huge mistake cost me our entire friendship, and the last I heard from him came from a stingy Facebook message in April 2010.

But that was it. No phone call, no public apology or anything. I was too embarrassed, too upset and too worried it wasn’t worth it.

A major part of me was gone, and I had tremendous issues just trying to deal with it. Friends’ advice didn’t help. I hated going home to Cleveland for fear of running into him or a member of his family.

I even had doubts if I could make it through a high school class reunion, years from now.

That depression and cynicism pervaded my entire being for the last 2 1/2 years, until two months ago.

The phone call I had been dreading for years caught my ex-best friend by surprise; I could tell by his long exhale when I said it was me.

It didn’t end there. I caught him on the road, so he stopped by the house. We sat on the front porch in the scalding August heat and talked. For awhile. By the end of it, we had brought each other up to speed with two years of living.

When he left, I considered what my goals were for breaking the glacier-sized ice.

Our talk hadn’t gone the best it could have, but it didn’t go the worst, either. I said what I had avoided saying for years, and he listened. My goal was to express my apology, and who knows how much longer I’d have to do so.

He seemed to appreciate that. I don’t know what will change, if anything, but at least I know I tried to fix the bridge I had burned.

More importantly, I sought to end the emotionally crippling state I was in. And that’s at least one thing I can say my fateful phone call accomplished.

 

DAN KUBACKI

[email protected]