Once Upon a Friend
By Trish Hubschman
It was the last few days of eighth grade, 1978.
My parents were getting divorced and, in August, we were moving out of town. This would be my last chance to go back to my old elementary schools, Joyce Road and Parkway, to say goodbye to my teachers. It was fourth period and I wanted to cut out. It wasn’t something I normally did, but this was important.
My friend, Paula, had lunch this period, so I headed down to the cafeteria. I found her, but she didn’t want to cut out with me. There was another girl sitting at the table. I sort of knew her. She came over my house a lot with her mom, who was friends with my mom. She always hung out in my younger sister’s bedroom, so I figured she was just a kid.
“What are you doing here, Carol?” I aske.
She laughed. “I go to school here. I’m in seventh grade,” she replied.
I laid out my game plan to the other girl and she said she’d join me. This started a friendship that lasted nearly forty years.
After we moved, Carol and her mother still came to visit. In the 1980s, Carol and I began going to concerts together: Bryan Adams, Air Supply, Foreigner. She read me the greeting cards at Hallmark. She was my guest to my older sister’s wedding. When I got married in 1992, Carol was my maid of honor. She got married the following year. I was in her wedding party. In 2000, she had a baby girl.
Carol’s older sisters had moved to Georgia a few years earlier. Their jobs had transferred them. Their mother was commuting back and forth between New York and Georgia. In 2004, Carol moved down there. She returned twice a year with her daughter for visitation. I saw her about four hours a year. She came over my house, we went up the block for pizza, and then Came back to my house. She would have two cups of tea and we’d chat. Sometimes, she would be at my older sister’s house for Thanksgiving.
Ten years later, the ideal way for me and Carol to spend some real time together fell into my lap. My favorite rock band, Styx, was performing at the beach theater during Carol’s June visit. My husband suggested I ask her if she’d like to go with me to the show. I was terrified. What if she said no, what if she got mad at me for asking? Well, I got up my nerve and asked her and she said yes. I was so excited.
The night of the show, Carol suddenly didn’t seem to want to go. “Why should I have to pick you up?” she said. “Can’t you find another way down to the beach? I’ll meet you there. If you really want to go with me, that’ll be the best way to do it.”
What was she talking about? It never bothered her before to pick me up for concerts and why did she wait until the last minute to bring this up? We waged a compromise. She would pick me up at my mom’s, which was about halfway, and drop me back off there after the show. When we got to the beach and tried to park in the closer lot, we discovered that my handicapped parking pass was expired by about a week. We had to park far away and walk. When we were inside the arena, I kept telling Carol we had to find the Events manager, who would put us in handicapped seating on the floor level. Carol was ignoring me. She made me climb to the third section of the venue, up steep cement steps that didn’t have a rail. I fell twice and cut my knee, sneaker and cane. I was in tears. Finally, someone came over to find out what was going on. I explained. We were physically hustled down the steps and I was strapped into a wheelchair and carted across the floor section in front of thousands of people. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. Styx was wonderful and the floor seats they put us in were great.
Carol’s next visit was June 2015. Mom came over the day after Carol’s pizza and tea visit with me. She told me that she heard from my older sister that Carol had been bitten by one of my dogs while she was here. Hah? When did this happen? I never left Carol alone with the dogs. In fact, they seemed to be afraid of her. A few days later, I received a clipped email from Carol saying much of the same. “I hope the vicious dog had his shots,” she wrote. I wasn’t sure which of my dogs she was talking about, but they were both up-to-date with their shots. I told her so and apologized profusely, though I never saw the bite mark or the dog doing it. One thing I was certain of, she did not want to step foot in my house again.
I came up with a game plan for her 2016 visit. The day before she was to arrive, I told her about a festival at a community college around the corner from Mom’s. She wouldn’t have to drive to my house. Carol gave me the impression the idea was cool with her. The next day, when she came up, she suddenly had a dinner date with another friend for the same day.
We had an argument on e-mail. That was the last time Carol spoke to me. We’d had many fights over the years and she never gave me the silent treatment. We never stayed apart for long. I e-mailed her, texted, sent messages through Facebook. Her sister told me I should apologize to Carol, which I did, on Christmas Eve, but there was no response.
For the ensuing six years, I tried to touch base with Carol. She generally ignored Facebook messages I sent her. In November 2022, my niece, Naomi, got married. Carol and her two sisters came up for the wedding. My husband, Kevin, and I were there too. I was completely invisible to Carol. I think it was then that I was finally able to make peace within myself regarding the situation. I thought she had been my best friend, though I don’t think she thought that way about me. Sad, yes, but I think I finally have closure.
Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series: Tidalwave, Stiff Competition, Ratings Game, Uneasy Tides, and Gayle’s tales.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-writing. She is deaf-blind and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Kevin and their dog Henry.
Visit her website.
Abbie Johnson TaylorMarch 1, 2023
Trish and Patty, thank you for sharing this sad friendship story. Trish, I’m glad you’re at peace with the situation now.
Patty FletcherMarch 1, 2023
Hi Abbie, thanks for reading and commenting on this post. It made me cry to read it. I have been there and it is surely no fun. I thought it was rather brave of Trish to write about such an ordeal.
Abbie Johnson TaylorMarch 2, 2023
I quite agree, Patty. It sounds like Carol was one of those fair-weather friends. That’s what my mother called them, people who are only your friend if it suits them.
Patty FletcherMarch 3, 2023
Yes, Abbie, that’s what mom called them as well.
Patricia HubschmanMarch 3, 2023
i wrote this a couple of years ago. It didn’t have an ending till a few months ago. i wish she had given me the courtesy of saying it to my face, rather than giving me the silent treatment, but such is life. ream
Patty FletcherMarch 3, 2023
Hi Trish, well I know it’s not much consolation, but honestly we’re better off without such shallow people.
That having been said, I understand how you feel. I’ve lost a ton of people since getting a guide dog.
People say they don’t mind the dog but then, the invites stop or else I have to hear, “Can’t you just leave him at home?”
Well, I want to scream, “You fool! Why don’t you leave your eyes at home and see how it feels?”
We are strong and the real friends we have may be few but at least they’re real.
Great job. making it here.