A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You by
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(197 Stories)

Prompted By Forgiveness

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This is a story about a time that I tried to forgive and did such a bad job of it that I ruined the friendship entirely.

This is a story about a time that I tried to forgive and did such a bad job of it that I ruined the friendship entirely.

I met Janet the winter after I graduated from law school. There was a group of us who had gone to law school together who went up to Lake Tahoe one weekend a month in the winter, to a cabin owned by the parents of one of our law school friends. They gave us a really reasonable rate on the cabin, and it had enough bedrooms and couches to accommodate at least ten people. We took turns cooking, and we all went skiing during the day, either downhill or cross country.

Janet was not a lawyer, she was dating Rob, one of the guys in the group. She and I quickly hit it off and became close friends. Our offices were both downtown, and we regularly had lunch together. We also talked on the phone frequently. When she and Rob got married a few years later, I was one of her three bridesmaids, edging out some other women who had known her a lot longer. When I got married a year after that, she was my only other bridesmaid besides my sisters. She seemed as close as a sister.

Then, a year after I got married, I became pregnant, and even though we were excited about it, my husband and I didn’t tell anyone right away, wanting to keep it to ourselves for a while. The weekend of our January cabin trip I started feeling terrible on Friday. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I couldn’t face the drive up to Tahoe. So I needed to call the cabin and tell them that the two of us weren’t coming.

I don’t remember if I asked to speak to Janet, or if she just happened to be the one to answer the phone when I called. I said I wasn’t feeling well and they should not expect us. With anyone else, that would have been the end of the conversation. But because it was my dear friend Janet, she was all sympathetic and concerned, and wanted to know what was wrong. It just slipped out. I’m pregnant, but I think I might be having a miscarriage. Then I said please, please, please don’t tell anyone else, I don’t want them to know. She promised she wouldn’t.

Then she got off the phone, and under questioning from the group – which may have been intense, remember they were all lawyers – she spilled the beans.

Well it WAS a miscarriage, and I was pretty torn up about it. And of course I found out that she had told everyone at the cabin, and I was torn up about that too. I was so mad at her that I couldn’t even speak to her for a while. Eventually though, she convinced me to meet her for lunch so we could talk it out.

Here’s what I did wrong. On the day that we were going to meet, I started looking around my house at all the things I had that were hers. A book about the pine barrens of New Jersey that she wanted me to read, although I hadn’t gotten around to it and didn’t think I would. A basket with ribbons entwined in the handle that the flower girl had carried at my wedding. And a third item that I no longer remember. Well, I thought to myself, as long as I am seeing Janet, I may as well give her back all these things, I don’t need them any more.

So we met, we talked, she apologized and explained how it happened. I said I understood and shouldn’t have put her in that position by telling her such a hard-to-keep secret. I told her I forgave her and I wanted to be friends again. But then I gave her back the book and the basket and the other thing, sort of suggesting that I was clearing all her stuff out of my house. She took the message from the objects rather than from my words.

And we really never were able to repair the friendship.

Maybe now, thirty-five years later, I should ask her forgiveness.

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Characterizations: been there, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    First let me say, I am sorry for your loss, Suzy. It sounds very difficult. This sort of news is very difficult to keep concealed, even in the best of times. Worse when something is going wrong. And difficult to pick up the pieces when each feels like they are aggrieved party.

    It is big of you now, with hindsight, to see how she could have misconstrued the message when you gave her back anything from your house that was associated with her, though that was not what you said to her. Hurt feelings are difficult to overcome.

    Will you try to reach out to her again, after all these years, or has too much time passed?

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Betsy. I might reach out to her. I was actually planning to try to see her this summer, because she lives near where I was going to be at a conference. But of course all that was cancelled long ago.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    An incredibly brave story, Suzy, given all the circumstances and your willingness to share it with us. And I am sure that the irony has not escaped you that, despite Janet originally asking for your forgiveness, based on how that went, you are the one who is now wondering if you should be asking her forgiveness.

    In some ways, your giving back the gifts from Janet presages the now-cliched “Sorry. Not Sorry.” meme. But, cliched or not, it is a very understandable mixed reaction to having been hurt. To cite another useful cliche, it’s complicated.

    I think you are being too hard on yourself, but thank you for your honesty.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, John. To be clear, they weren’t gifts I was giving back, that would have clearly been a hostile act. They were things she had lent to me with the expectation that I would give them back at some point. This just wasn’t the right point to do it. It was not AT ALL like sorry/not sorry. It was bad timing on my part, and not thinking it through.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Suzy, you should have her read this. You did forgive her for a pretty huge betrayal, but your gesture to return these things was misinterpreted. Or maybe, to give Janet a bit of credit, it was an unconscious gesture on your part because you were so hurt. Clearly, 35 years later this still bothers you and while you can’t reclaim those years, maybe it would feel better to ask for her forgiveness. I had a friend who hurt me deeply (mostly over stuff between our kids). We avoided each other for many years but somehow found our way back to being friends. We have never talked about those hurts from the past. Maybe we should, but I’m afraid of losing her again.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, I may send her this story. But it’s interesting to me that you and your friend who found your way back to friendship have never talked about the hurts from the past, and that you’re afraid of losing her again if you do. That suggests to me that maybe I shouldn’t. Janet appears in several other Retrospect stories of mine, and I think I may have sent at least one of them to her but didn’t get a response.

  4. Wow, Suzy. . . killer opening sentence! And what a story! If I were you, I’d ask her for forgiveness, not because you did anything wrong but because now you have the emotional perspective to see things so clearly, and because your heart is in precisely the right place. In fact, maybe even send her this story.

    It must have been difficult to share this…thank you for doing so, my friend. One of the great things about living this long is that we continue to learn more about ourselves. XO

  5. Marian says:

    Thanks for your openness with this story. It’s amazing how actions can be misconstrued. I will be eager to learn what happens if you do send Janet the story and she responds. I guess one of the take-aways is that often it isn’t 100% one person and 0% the other, but both contribute to the scenario.

  6. Oh Suzy, I add my vote to forgive.

    There’s been so much water under the bridge, and happy births after the one sad miscarriage, send Janet the story and forgive her at last!

  7. Understood, and we’ve all suffered from poor or mis-communication, I see it in my family all the time!

  8. Risa Nye says:

    Everything I might have said has already been said, but I know how painful these misunderstandings can be. I guess we’ll stay tuned to see what develops. Keeping secrets is hard.

  9. John Zussman says:

    Your story shows how complex and multifaceted forgiveness is — even with the best of intentions, we are still fully capable of blowing it. Now you’ve got me thinking about a long-term friendship that went south. I hope you eventually reestablish your relationship with Janet.

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