Many years ago, I wrote a blog post about my mother and her best friend. I don’t remember the specifics of the post other than that it was me trying to understand their friendship and being somewhat impressed by it – a friendship that started in childhood and endured to adulthood (when my mother died) despite having very different paths in life.
My mother’s best friend was also my godmother. Until my mother’s death, she was part of many of our family (both immediate and extended) gatherings and happenings. She was a hilarious woman – at least, she was to me as a child, but I’m not sure my sense of humour was particularly refined (it still isn’t). A lot of the memories are hazy, but all of them are of good times. Many of our interactions were peripheral – she was always there to be with my mother and I got to climb all over her, laugh at her jokes, and then head off to read a book or play in the other room.
After my mother died, my godmother had a very hard time – as you’d expect from someone who had lost her best friend. I was living in Toronto then and didn’t have much of a connection to her, but she remained very close to my mom’s sisters (and their adult children, and, eventually, their grandchildren) which was, I imagine, a good connection. I sent Christmas cards, she sent Christmas cards, and that was the extent of things. Without my mother, we didn’t have a strong connection between us.
I wrote the blog post many years after my mother’s death. Like everything I’ve blogged, it was about figuring things out for myself. I used to have a disclaimer on all of my blogs that essentially read: even if something I write seems to be about you, it’s really about me. My thoughts, my feelings, my perceptions..
A neighbour from my childhood home area – a busybody jackass neighbour (Hi Kathy, if you’re reading! Still think you’re a jackass!) – printed it off and gave it to my godmother. My godmother didn’t use the internet, you see, and apparently the neighbour felt my godmother really urgently needed to read this post.
I still don’t think anything I said was remotely upsetting, but apparently my godmother disagreed – possibly with the prodding of the jackass neighbour.
But.. I didn’t know any of this at the time.
And so, the next time I saw my godmother, at (I believe) one of my cousin’s milestone birthdays, I wasn’t quite sure why she was so distant. I was in my mid-20s, though, and figure it was just that we hadn’t seen each other in a while. We didn’t have a tight connection between us when I was little, so we didn’t know how to relate as adults.
But I gleefully told her that I was engaged (to Coffee!) and that I was getting ready to send my invitations out. She said she was looking forward to being there. We chatted briefly about wedding plans and whatnot and then our focus turned to the birthday celebration.
And that was literally the last time we spoke. She didn’t RSVP to the wedding, didn’t return my phone calls, didn’t show up at the event. She didn’t send a card (or respond to my Christmas card).
I didn’t know what to make of it, but I also wasn’t devastated. I just thought she didn’t feel any connection and, well, I didn’t really have much either, soo… I guess we all move on?
One of my cousins eventually filled me in – my godmother had read the blog post and was angry. My cousin wasn’t telling me at my godmother’s request, my cousin just thought I’d want to know.
I re-read the post and could not, for the life of me, figure out how it would be considered offensive. I also couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t have contacted me – she knew where I was, how to reach me.
I took the post down, though, and over the years wondered how I should have handled it. Did I need to explain to her my thoughts? And how would I do that? Write a letter? Leave a long voice mail? Did she even know that I knew she was angry?
Every time I pondered it, I’d let it drop. I figured since she hadn’t let me know she was upset, maybe she didn’t want to work it through? Why didn’t she say something at my cousin’s event? Or call me sometime before that? Or after? Maybe she was happy to let things sit in the past. Maybe she wasn’t even all that mad – and shrugged it off?
This situation was one of the first times, as an adult, that I wasn’t sure what to do. Was she in the wrong for being (angry? upset?) and not telling me? Was I being stubborn and ridiculous to not reach out and try to resolve things even though she hadn’t been the one to tell me she was upset? Or was it just fine as-is, with her (presumably) moving on with her life and me moving on with my life? Do two people with a very distant connection need to invest a lot of effort into fixing something?
(I overthink things. I know this.)
I’m thinking about this again because my godmother died a few days ago.
I hadn’t known she was sick and I’m not sure what I would have done if I had. I suspect I’d have stayed away out of a fear of intruding into the life of someone whose circle I wasn’t really a part of anymore.
Is that the right thing to do? It’s a strange feeling. I don’t have any intense sadness (or maybe I’m currently burned out of that particular emotion, ahem) that she’s gone – or that I didn’t have a connection to her over the last decade+ of time.
Like everything, and per my fabulous disclaimer, this is just me wandering through my own thoughts. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s nothing to be done, now, anyway.