Today, I read an article by Dani Klein Modisett entitled, “Searching for Ethel.” It was a poignant article about a women’s search for her idea of a true friend. She described her idea of such a friend and likened it to the type of friend that Ethel Mertz was to Lucy Ricardo in the television show, I Love Lucy. The article moved me because I have always wished for an Ethel in my life. I have seen every episode of I Love Lucy numerous times, but I still find myself actually laughing out loud when I watch the repeat marathons that often occur in the wee hours of what is usually television’s wasteland.
I actually did meet “my Ethel” and, during our time together, her previous friends would call her and she would blow them off. I remember thinking (and….I actually confronted her by asking) – when are you going to blow me off like that? She insisted that “there was nothing I could EVER do/say that would cause her to EVER blow me off.” I haven’t made good “people” choices in my lifetime because they’ve all gone away for one reason or another. Don’t REAL friends stay through thick & thin / better or worse / in spite of your flaws? Anyway, as hard as it is for me, I began to trust her. For years, she stayed true to her word so I eventually believed that she would not leave me as everyone else had.
She was often depressed due to family issues and I tried to support her in every way I could, although it became more difficult with time. All I could do was listen and it made me feel inadequate as she had helped me through so much of my own anguish. She discussed her family issues so much/often that she grew weary of thinking/talking about them. She, along with her family’s help, had put herself into a no-win situation and, I believe, she escaped her demons by spending time at my house and I, too, escaped my sorrows with laughter each time we were together. I loved her company, personality and humor, but mostly I loved that she appeared to genuinely care about me in a way that I hadn’t felt from anyone in my life – including from my own family. My husband, and a son, had passed away and my daughter & I had become estranged (aha moment – abandonment issues).
We commiserated over past employers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc. and we solved all the problems of the world with every conversation. Together we laughed, cried, played cards, talked ourselves into (and out of) several business ideas in a single afternoon, planned my daughter’s wedding, and we even started to write the “All American Novel.” She was smarter, funnier, and more sophisticated than me – in every way and my own insecurities never let me realize what she saw in me or in the time we spent together. .
I believe she either found someone else to “enable” her better than I did, or she was afraid I was going to leave her so she left me first. Regardless of the reason, she has moved on and she used a made-up “misunderstanding” as her excuse. She blew me off a couple times when I tried to reach out to her so I affectionately accused her of walking away. In her non-confrontational way, she insisted that she has not walked away, but that “she is on a sabbatical of self-discovery.” I received that message in August 2012 and I haven’t heard from her since.
I no longer believe she & I could ever recapture what we had. It is too much like trying to recreate the moment of sitting on a river’s edge beside your eight-year-old best friend as you both dangle your feet in the water while eating an ice cream cone. Time moves on, childhood friends move away, and “true” relationships only exist on television.
Someday, I intend to finish the novel we started and I will dedicate it to her and Ethel Mertz.