Friday, May 9, 2008

Keeping in Touch

For whatever reason, I’ve always been good at keeping in touch with friends. Even before email, I faithfully sent letters to my friends who went to college before me. Even in college (there still was no email), I wrote long letters to my friends at different schools, filling them in on my life in Colorado. I ran up exorbitant phone bills calling my parents, my cousins and my friends scattered across the country. Even on a tight college budget, I spent about $100 a month on phone bills. This, of course, was pre-cell phones with unlimited weekend calling.

I don’t know if it’s because I was an English major and love the pure joy of a story, any story, or if it’s because I truly like people and like to stay in touch. When I lived in Boulder and had a more flexible work schedule, yet no email at the office, I would start my day by making a smoothie and sitting down at my computer to respond to my emails. I felt very Victorian, as I imagined my routine was similar to one of days past.

Now a day, everyone has email at the office, email at home and most of us sort through loads of spam in addition to the informative emails. The last thing any of us want to do is compose a long email about life. Luckily, cell phones are ridiculously cheap and allow us to catch-up without typing or putting pen to paper. (When was the last time you received a letter for the sake of a letter? Not a thank you card or invitation – just a letter. I can’t even recall and my grandmother used to be really good about it.)

I have a 45 minute commute to work each way, which leaves loads of time for phone conversations (I wear a headset). I randomly call people all the time. I keep in touch with lots of friends and family members. And I love it.

During my life, I’ve had friends who marveled at my correspondence and list of far away friends. How do you do it? They’d ask. I can barely remember to call my mom, they’d say. And I knew then that they would be the friends who I’d have to do all the work with keeping in touch.

So, when those friends don’t call back, I call again. When they don’t respond to email, I don’t take it personally. But when they don’t call me back after I’ve left eight messages over two months, I start to take it personally.

One of my best friends lives in Boulder and is horrible about keeping in touch. But over the years, she’s appreciated when I stalked her and we’d finally catch-up on the phone, which was about once a month. Whenever we’re together, we laugh our asses off and have a fantastic time.

I called her before our trip to Vietnam to wish her a happy Thanksgiving and let her know we were headed to Southeast Asia. I called her again to tell her about the trip and wish her a Merry Christmas. I called again to wish her a Happy New Year, and still no return call. Finally, I caught her on Martin Luther King day for a few minutes while she was waiting for some workers at her house. She filled me in on life, how she was moving to a new house, her Christmas vacation, but the whole time she seemed uneasy. She eventually told me she didn’t want to spend the whole day waiting for the workers and had to go call them. I was fine with that, thinking she’d call me back. She never did.

I called her again in February. Then again in March to tell her about the pregnancy. Still, no return call. Finally, I stopped calling. I know lives get busy. I know I live in California and she lives in Colorado, and I know she is horrible about keeping in touch. But it’s hard to not take it personally when someone I considered a best friend doesn’t even drop me a note or text me or leave me a voicemail saying she is overwhelmed, but can’t handle anything else right now. I understand that. But radio silence? For months. I’m baffled and my feelings are hurt.

The other day, a number from Colorado popped up on my cell phone. I didn’t recognize it, and thought it might be her from her new house. I answered with hope in my voice, so happy we’d get to catch-up. But it was the University thanking me for my donation.

I’m still hopeful the friendship will survive, but I’m done making the effort. As my friend said, even pregnant girls need their girlfriends. Thankfully, I have her and lots of other friends to share stories with.

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