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Wednesday
May212014

Blue Eyes

It was a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. The sky was an endless brilliant blue without a single cloud to mar it. The trees were showing the first hints of green and overhead, geese were heralding their arrival home with exuberant honking.

My husband and I had spent the afternoon running small errands but mostly we were just spending our day together, driving aimlessly without hurry, talking about this and that without any interruptions from teens or child or dog or neighbour. The day marked our 17th anniversary but we were exhausted from celebrating high school graduations and Mother’s day. It was enough to simply be together. Far too many of our days are spent apart.

We pulled into a gas station, the light on the fuel gauge blinking furiously, and as Bruce walked into the station I poured over Instagram and pondered the wisdom of flooding my stream with endless pictures of my children in their fancy graduation finery, wondering how many pictures of pretty dresses would be too many, completely lost in thought and remembrance, when suddenly my vehicle shook with a loud bang.

Startled, I looked up to see a woman hugging the hood of my car, peering at me through the windshield and grinning like I was her long lost best friend.

My heart thudded as my brain scrambled to reconcile the image of the person before me with a person I used to know.

***

I was nine when I met her. I had gone down to my bedroom to change into my pajamas and was standing in just my underwear when I made eye contact with her. She stood staring into my bedroom window with the bluest eyes I had ever seen, laughing at me, her short brown hair spiked up with blue mousse.

I screamed and ripped a shirt back over my head while racing upstairs to tell my parents about the weird peeping tom standing at my window but she was quicker than me and was already standing at our back door, grinning widely. 

“Wanna come out and play?” she asked through the glass.

So I did. We were inseparable from that moment on. Friends forever we swore.

Forever never existed for us.

*** 

Her eyes were exactly the same. The blue of them matched the incredible sky over head. But everything else about her had changed, almost imperceptibly. It was like looking at a painting when you accidentally put your contacts in the wrong eyes. It’s all the same and yet everything looks different.

It was her and yet she was not anyone I had ever known. Memories of our past came flooding back as she hugged me hard and stood back to examine me. 

She was my everything for so very long. When my world was upside down she was always there to get me right side up. Her family became my family and I practically lived at her house to escape the doldrums of my own.

I never really noticed the fractures in our friendship until they became crevices that couldn’t be over looked. The further we drifted the tighter I tried to hold onto her, not realizing I was choking the love out of her.

I thought I could save her, or help her, or heal her; all of it, until at long last, I was so swamped from anger and guilt that my love was not enough for her that I let her go. I released her. I turned my back on her because I didn’t know how to watch her suffer any longer. I didn't want to suffer any longer.

I told myself I had to protect my family but really I had to insulate my heart from her choices. I wanted to be there for her and I could never understand why she wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t accept the fact she found more comfort in a drug-fuelled haze than she did with my love.

I couldn’t accept her any longer.

*** 

The last time I saw her was the day I buried my son, eight years ago.

I remember very little from that day. I was numb from disbelief, cocooned with shock. There were so many people there to say good-bye to a boy most never really knew and I was overwhelmed. But I remember her.   

She stood outside the church, smoking one cigarette after another, trying to convince me to let her take my children for a night.

She was a shell of her former self. I hadn’t seen her much the last few years and I hadn’t realized how far she had sunk in the abyss of drugs and hopelessness. Medical problems combined with narcotics had taken a steep toll on her health, until the person she used to be was buried beneath this new unrecognizable child-like person.

I lost my temper on her that afternoon and as soon as I raised my voice with her, I regretted it. She didn’t understand why I was upset. She couldn’t comprehend. She wasn’t there even though she was standing in front of me. Brain damage took the person she was and twisted her into someone new.

We stood there facing one another, both of us broken, fractured far past the reflections of who we used to be.

I buried my son that afternoon alongside any hope of ever reconciling with the person she now was, missing the girl I once knew her to be.

***

There we stood, outside a gas station in the middle of nowhere, history flooding both our memories. Bruce came out, with slushies in hand, to find my past standing directly in front of me. If he was surprised he covered it well. He has always been more graceful than I could ever hope to be.

She talked and answered our questions, but she never asked any of her own. She didn’t want to know about my life but she wanted me to know about hers. She wanted me to know she remembered me.

That she loved me.

That she thought of me often.

She rambled as she wiped her makeup and sweat off her face, smearing it more. But in between the rambles were moments of clarity and lucidity and I could see her, my friend, as though she were trapped beneath a glass surface, ready to break loose.

She’d lift up her sunglasses to show me her eyes, telling me she was sober at the moment and working hard to get clean. That she’d been using this or that over the years but she is doing better now. Then she’d hug me again, and I’d feel her frailness once more and I’d marvel at her strength.

She talked fast and yet her mouth never really moved. She bounced from subjects and emotions faster than my brain could process, my mind was too busy trying to cope with the fresh heartbreak occurring within my chest.

For as much as she talked she didn’t really say anything. I still don’t understand how her brain works, or the pain she feels, or the choices she makes. I never did and I’m wise enough now to understand that I probably never will.

She battles demons I can’t even fathom, on a daily basis, and life has taken her down a path I can’t follow. Years ago I blamed myself for this. If only I had done something different, loved her enough, been a better friend. And then, years later, I blamed her, for not fighting hard enough, for not choosing wisely, for not caring enough.

I don’t blame myself anymore, and I don’t blame her. Addiction, mental illness, fortune, it all conspired to rob her of the life we once both dreamed of.

She isn’t the same person she used to be. But then, neither am I. I will always miss the person that she once was and mourn the person she could have been. I will always damn the addiction and disease that took her from her family, from me. 

She was my best friend forever, until we forgot forever existed.

I remember now. And I’ll forever hope you slay your dragons and overcome your addiction and your pain, Blue Eyes.

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Reader Comments (39)

Tanis, this was beautiful and so raw. It's so sad to lose a best friend but it's sad when you lose them to something like addiction. Much love to you!

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

This is painful to read. I empathize.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina M

I could visualize this as it unfold, as I read. I feel it too, but it's harder to see because then it's more real and makes me remember the forever people I've lost to addiction.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArnebya

It is a sad and terrible thing to watch someone you love struggle in the maw of addiction and mental illness. I, too, empathize.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

On June 1st, it will be exactly six years since I lost my mom to the same demons. No matter that we understand that we are not to blame, it still hurts like hell.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Thank you for this. My husband is bipolar and also suffers with RA and Tourettes. It's hard. You put some of my feelings into words better than I had expressed them in my own head.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGabby

Gosh this reminds me of my mother. Blue eyes and all. There's so much I could say, that I relate too. I hope you find peace with this. It seems so. There may always be those inklings of other feelings, but the peace has to be the big one, if that makes sense.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Beautifully written. Heartbreakingly sad. And completely recognizable and familiar, in the choices you faced and the decisions you made.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertwobusy

Oh, man. This is just rough and I can completely relate. Love the way you wrote this. xx

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZak

I am sobbing in car pool. Blue eyes reminds me so much of my mother. I would give anything to see her again and tell her it was never her fault. She never stood a chance. The drugs had her at hello. Thank you for this beautiful post.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstefanie

Tanis... (You.)

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Piazza

Compelling writing so strange that after all this time out of the blue there she was.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

I had a blue eyes. Except she had green. We were friends from sixth grade through high school, through college and being roommates and moving out of state together. Then I moved here to marry my husband, and she went down a rabbit hole of heavy drinking, partying, and drug use. I heard about this third-hand...I was aware something had changed, but life and pregnancy and being three thousand miles away dimmed the need to know. Then her brother called and her mom had died and they'd found Emmy at the doors of the ER, coming off a bender and her kidneys so fucked up she thought she was in high school.

I am so very sorry this happened to you. Your honesty has made me make a phone call that's been overdue for two years - calling her sister to see where Em is now.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Well, damnit. Trying not to cry at work. Beautiful and raw and my heart is breaking for you and for her. I hope she finds peace.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha

It's odd how life works that all of a sudden you saw your long lost friend out of the blue. It's sad to lose a friendship that was once so valuable to you but at times it's a necessity to break from someone who is continually making destructive choices. Addiction doesn't feel like a choice and mental illness isn't but how it is dealt with can be. The thing that upsets me most about the story is that she didn't ask about you. The chance meeting gave you much to contemplate and many memories to relive. Your writing transports me. xoxo

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChrisor

Thanks for sharing your story and your heart. <3

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeahpeah

Oh Tanis. Unfortunately more of us can emphasize with this more than we all care to admit. Once again I am in awe of your grace and ability to take us there with you. Thank you for sharing this...now excuse me while I face hubby who will know it was you that made me cry (again). I just can't quit you...(ah humor. The greatest pain reliever I know)

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

so real and honest and authentic. the truth in it burns my eyes as i recognize all the feelings you describe so well. there's a reason you ran into into her now, at this point in time. bless you for being able to come to a place where there is no blame. thank you so much for sharing this. what an honor to hear your truth, which is our truth in so many ways.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdawny dee

((((Hugs)))) Mental illness is difficult to look at, from the outside. Painful.

Blue eyes. Mom has blue eyes. She also has the diagnosis of manic-only bipolar (a fairly rare variant, from what I can gather) and has dragged my brother and I along for her personal roller-coaster ride throughout our lives.

Two years plus a week ago, or a little bit more than 7 years ago, depending on where you start counting, my mother's lifelong mental illness gained full control and, while the drugs in her case are all prescription, the situation is similarly painful. I went for more than a year without speaking to her, and except for a couple of very stressful supervised visits a couple of months ago, I plan to continue on that path.

I still want the best for her--she IS still my mother--but I cannot bear the slander and libel her fixed delusion causes her to spew at and about me and mine. I still get updates by way of my brother now and then.

The one that worries me the most is that her new psychiatrist thinks she was never bipolar (that's been her diagnosis, with dated name changes, since 1974--in 1960 they actually DID begin with paranoid schizophrenic) and plans to treat her with anti-depressants as a paranoid schizophrenic. I hope he has a bed ready in a secure facility, standing by, because the last time she was on anti-depressants we figuratively had to catch her with a butterfly net. I wonder if he's ever witnessed a full-scale manic episode. Then again, it's possible that over time, her system has changed. But I doubt it.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen in KS

I have my own Blue Eyes, a friend since Junior High, but one I haven't seen in several years now. Because I finally wanted to stop being flaked upon, and stop watching the poor choices...and to stop knowing what it meant when a message went unreturned for just a *little* too long. I still drive by his mom's house every time I go to my mom's house. And I always wonder if I'll see his car, even though he doesn't live around here. And I feel bad, even though I'm certainly not doing anything to reach out and start the cycle of hope and disappointment all over again. On the other hand I dread the next contact I have being when I learn he lost the fight. I don't know what to do about that. Thank you for the post. You're not alone in this.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElisa Camahort Page

Tanis you've struck me so deeply with your lyrical way of tossing me into your life. How can I thank you for your love, how can I tell you that your friend really does feel your past love for her. She mourns it and the loss of herself.
She sits in a mourning which would have stolen any kind of forever...well it did, didn't it?
These words, here on this website have me thinking of my own blue eyes who chose the opposite road to the one I chose....and I am going to drop her a line.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSoberJulie

This killed me. so many times you write things that I can relate to, so many times you write things that I understand at a core level even if I haven't been there just because I'm a mother. But this tore my heart out because I know this, I've lived this, and it never stops aching.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

It's a miracle any of us get out. The road is long, and so many don't. I hope she does. There is always hope, even when a person looks like they've lost everything. That's what I pull for.

May 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

This is so beautifully written and heartbreaking. Also, for me, personally, terrifying. One of my sons (the one who is NOT autistic) has recently been diagnosed as bipolar and, as the adolescent hormones are kicking in are whipping him up into rapid cycling. In spite of being heavily medicated, I have had to pull him from school and am home schooling him right now. And I am so frightened about his future. So many people with this disease/diagnosis end up falling down that rabbit hole of drug & alcohol addiction. I love him to pieces and will do everything in my power to keep that from happening, but know that even a mother's love has only so much power over the choices a child makes.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVarda (Squashedmom)

Your post grabbed me and held me tight. I have a sister I love dearly who had made some very very poor choices. No doubt many due to valid DSM-IV diagnoses. Some mental health care I questioned and some her refusal to follow good treatment plans. She us trying now. Very hard. Being a grandmother seems to give her strength. BTW her two children are successful strong people.

My other sister had to distance ourselves and families from her for years. I think that distance has allowed for the contact we now have.

Thank you for expressing in a way that touched me so very personally.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

Such an amazing post.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyooty/Mary

Thank you for sharing. My husband and I are dealing with his mom. She is borderline delusional and obsessive. We are starting to distance ourselves from her as we cannot handle the lies and emotional turmoil she is causing. We believe she needs mental help, but she does not see it.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna

This was so beautifully written. Tears and love showed through. I've never even experienced addiction personally or through loved ones. This post really pulled me in though.

May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLess

I know you feel as tho you wrote this post to simply let out all that had been held in ... but as usual the blogosphere hugs those close that need it most. Your words speak to all of us that have had a 'blue eyes' somewhere in our lives, or are fearful for a loved one ... words should be shared so that they can touch the heart of another.
You have touched many ...

May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTheSistersHood

"Until we forgot forever existed". So raw and so beautiful.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

This story mirrors the relationship with my sister. Drugs and mental illness robbed the world of the loving, wickedly funny woman that was once my sister, replacing her with a shell of a person I do not understand. I hover between patience and anger when I am with her, trying hard to remain on the side of compassion. I fail far too often, but the sister I remember is gone, replaced with a stranger I do not know and do not like, but must love nonetheless.

May 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Beautiful, take my breathe away beautiful!

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie Haymon

Beautiful, raw and honestly written.
I have a friend like your Blue Eyes. Years of an abusive marriage, poor choices and substance abuse... then just when she seemed to escape all that, she was almost killed in a motorcycle wreck. Traumatic Brain Injuries have opened up a whole new world of issues, and problems on top of her past issues. *sigh* I live 500 miles away from her, but I still listen to her talk, rant, and vent when she needs to vent. I pray for her. A lot. Its all I can do...listen and pray.

Thank you for your words.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Mc

Goddamn I'm actually mad at you for writing better than me. Stop that!

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterD.J. Paris

I too have a Blue Eyes from my early teens. Both an eating disorder and addiction took her away. We tried to reconnect via FB a few years ago, but I think too much time has passed, it has become awkward between us. Sad.

As always, beautiful writing. Thank You.

June 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLou

Heartbreaking, and well written story. Thanks for sharing. People come in and out of lives for different reasons, it is hard to know when to let go. We are forever connected to them and changed by the relationship, but we have to be okay with moving on.
I am so glad I found your blog.....will be visiting again.
Have a wonderful day.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

I am so glad I happened to find your blog and this post. It is beautiful and heartbreaking. I can relate.

June 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDoreen McGettigan

Just the sort of on the spot on the nose prose I appreciate in a personal blog. Alright sister!

June 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Beer N. Hockey

You amaze me. Feelings are so hard to feel, let alone put into words. You nail it every time.

July 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Kraut

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