A friend has been mourning the loss of someone important in her life – first by his insistence that his new wife would not cope with their friendship and now, by the threat of terminal cancer. My friend is hoping she’ll get a chance to say goodbye. I hope she does too, though I’d infinitely prefer the cancer to be cured and the friendship repaired and happy ever after music to crash around all involved.
Life isn’t like that though, is it?
10 years ago a similar thing happened to me.
I met Y at university. Beautiful, outrageous, filled with sadness that lurked beneath a giggling surface, Y enchanted me. I became privy to some of her secrets: she used sunbeds to maintain the illusion of an exotic heritage; she undertook hypnosis to help in her exams; she never stopped mourning her 4 year old nephew who died shockingly of meningitis the year before I met her.
Then there were secrets I was not supposed to know – her long curly hair was a blue black that had to be dyed – but I never saw her do it and we lived together for 3 years; she had food issues that worried me, I’d often find an apologetic note replacing my nutloaf, yet I wasn’t supposed to know about her binges on chocolate hobnobs dipped in chocolate spread; she hated me being the centre of attention for my wild dancing and ridiculous clothes (in my defence, it wasn’t deliberate.)
Y looked after me when we went out drinking; she encouraged me to spend money I didn’t have; she made me laugh ’til I nearly wet myself and she made me think about things. I was studying drama, she was a psychology student studying real life drama. She made me feel clever, she made me feel more than myself.
When I first met Beloved he was standing outside the student union singing to every girl that stopped to listen. Nobody did, except me – Y dragged me away:
‘No’ she said, ‘mistake.’
And maybe it would have been , maybe if we’d got together then, it would never have worked. Y made me take a step back and the slow burn of my attraction to Beloved has lasted all this while.
Y left college and, despite living at opposite ends of the country and having no internet or texting, we stayed friends. We wrote old fashioned letters. Exchanged pictures of our cats. She visited Beloved and I when we were living in our first leaky caravan. When Beloved and I got married, she came to celebrate with us. She was there in Daughter’s early years, reading Thomas the Tank Engine , snuggled with her on the sofa. And then, wonderful news, Y met someone.
She was so happy and I was thrilled when she said they were getting married. Admittedly, I was a little distracted, I had a farm, a five year old and a new baby to manage but I was so very happy for her:
‘You will come won’t you?’
‘Of course I’ll come!’
‘You can’t bring the children though, we haven’t the room.’
My heart sank. Firstly, I was breastfeeding my 2 month old son, secondly, I never left my children. In those days I hadn’t an army of other mums to help out and my family weren’t that sort of family…Beloved couldn’t manage with them and the farm, he’d leave them in fields and forget to feed them.
It was a kind of insanity, I suppose.
‘Oh Y,’ I said,’I’m so sorry, I can’t leave Son, I’d have to teach him to take a bottle and there isn’t time and and and…’
‘Ok, you can bring the baby.’
How could I leave Daughter and just take Son? Daughter who’d had me to herself for 5 years and now had a small interloper to adjust to. I know how pathetic it sounds but I couldn’t begin to think how I’d explain it to her, the child I never left.
‘I can’t do that Y, I’m sorry, I don’t want Daughter to feel pushed out.’
She hung up on me and hasn’t spoken to me since.
I sent a present to the hotel, I don’t know if she ever got it. I wrote letters that were unanswered, I made phone calls that were ignored. I turned over what happened again and again and I can see how hurt she was by the decision I made.
I put my children, my own need, before her feelings and on her special day.
Of course, Daughter would have got over it and I’d have forgotten any dilemma had I gone to the wedding. I made a mistake, but if I’m honest, I’d do the same thing again.
It might be wrong, it might be clingy but my children are the most important thing in my life and doing right by them has always been my priority.
I’m sorry I let you down Y, I am, I miss you, you’ve left a Y-shaped hole in my life that has never healed. And I’m sorry for anyone else with people shaped holes in their lives. It’s horrible and it hurts, especially when, deep down, you know it’s your own fault.
Are happy endings possible before it’s too late? Before terminal illness forces the issue? Not for me I fear, for I don’t know where Y is. I googled her and, for a brief thrilling moment, I thought I’d found her, but it was a different Y, not my Y at all.
Maybe she has a K shaped hole in her life, and one day, maybe, she’ll google me.