...Tin can at my feet, think I'll kick it down the street,
That's the way to treat a friend...
Almost a year ago, a long time former best friend called to tell me her son was getting married in a few weeks. She and I have the same first name, although hers is spelled one letter differently, and pronounced with accents according to her native land, Germany. We met at a Raku firing that I was filming and had pieces in, another life. The last time we really were still able to talk honestly was on a porch swing, the hot, humid New Jersey August morning of my wedding. She wore long yellow lace gloves and drove us to the ceremony, in her husband's antique Rolls Royce, with a bucket of ice and a four hundred dollar bottle of Champagne. I remember her telling me the price, after crying on the porch swing that she felt she was losing me forever.
...Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today...
Looking back, what she lost was a good listener, someone who helped her through her husband's infidelities, someone who encouraged her to become a citizen of the USA and go to college, someone who commiserated and gave advice on parenting two very spoiled children. She lost the common sense of a single mother with a wild side, who could live on the sweat of her brow and a shoestring budget. She lost me because when I needed comfort, she said over the phone, millions of hundred dollar bills dropping through the air around her, cluttering the sound of her voice, "I'll call you when you feel better."
The first time was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the second followed soon after with the death of my father, followed by an emergency hysterectomy six months later, all in the same hospital. That was when I let go of our friendship, so receiving a phone call almost ten years later was a bit of a shock. She asked about my husband and our children, then interrupted me to say she desperately needed someone she could "entrust with her only grandson", who belonged to her daughter, who was going through a divorce due to domestic violence...and she thought of me! She proceeded to tell me that I would be expected to take him to the rehearsal dinner, but he needed a nap first and to be washed and dressed in his tuxedo. She wasn't sure where her daughter would be staying, either at her father's with his mistress (their former family home) or at "some hotel." But she knew I could handle giving her grandson a bath, getting him in pajamas, and getting him to fall asleep early enough for the next day. He was to be the ring-bearer.
It was late night. My husband needed attention. I told her I wasn't sure I could pull all of that off, due to his Alzheimer's. She continued with the remainder of the convoluted plans for the wedding and the reception at some local exceptionally elite establishment. At some point, it dawned on me that she wasn't even inviting me to the wedding. She wanted me to escort and care for a three-year-old I'd never met. And to think at one point in our friendship, she forgot I didn't speak German, going on and on about a new man she had met, whom she eventually married, after a prolonged and expensive divorce, for her husband, who was also my friend. I knew her well enough and had heard about other dalliances, in English, to know she was marrying again for money. That was when I saw a wide divide in our values and what was really important to her, and to me.
So, I called her back, said it was too much, considering what was going on in my life. She promised to stop by in the future; she promised there were no hard feelings; she said my husband and family were welcome to come any time to visit their retirement home, in a gated community, on a lake, in Vermont. I wished her well and asked her to send wedding photos, but I've not heard a thing since...and I've decided in my heart, Human kindness is overflowing, but I'll not kick a tin can down the street, even though it's been raining all week. I happen to love rain.
lyrics by Randy Newman
If you want to listen.