Monday, November 15, 2004

Friendly Fire

Is the wife of a friend also your friend?

No, neither automatically nor necessarily. She does have "most favored acquaintance" status until proved otherwise, but I won't say such a person is a friend until the signing of the treaty and the exchange of pens.

Actually, I mean until the exchange of serious and thoughtful conversation with the friend not present. Sometimes that never happens. (Hmm. Maybe that's just as well.)

Fine. There are worse things than not being a "most favored acquaintance."

Why has this problem in nomenclature trod its nasty crop circle into my field of dreams, my blog? I can give you reasons if you want reasons. One is that the wife of a good friend -- or so I think of him though it's not like we've exchanged decoder rings -- just lost her job. Sometime very soon I am going to write a column about job loss, since the 40th anniversary of one of my firings is just around the corner. It's quite thrilling. There were hints of industrial espionage. In the course of that essay to come, I thought I might mention my friend's wife, and thus the question of right reference arose, for my mind ever grinds away at the challenges of taxonomy.

Is the phrase "a friend's wife" somehow sexist and dismissive, as if she must be identified by her marital status? No, I have female friends of whom I might say, "There's my friend's husband. He only looks like her father -- though that would make her a troll, too, wouldn't it?"

So that's not it. And I am pretty sure it's not as if the "she" in this story would be offended by my calling her my friend. I don't suppose. I don't think so. Gee. I really don't know her well enough to know if she would be offended, an area of ignorance upon which I have just stumbled that suggests this problem is not a problem at all.

No no no. The reason I am sparing of my use of the word "friend" and that I fret about such use is that my father referred to everyone he ever talked with or shook hands with or saw across the street at a considerable distance as his friend.

"I want you to meet my friend," he said and said and said again.

My dad was a blue-collar guy who always had some kind of business going on the side and who, when all the numbers were added up, lost money at all of these businesses. But he was always hopeful. He was always hopeful because he was convinced that he was one of God's favorites (and so we discover reason ninethousandsevenhundredandseventeen why I dislike George Bush) and he thought that everyone he met liked him very very much.

His lawyer was his friend. His doctor was his friend. People to whom he owed money were his special friends. People who cheated him out of money were his very dearest friends, or so it seemed to me.

So "friend" is a word I am hesitant to use. It is one of the special little rotten spots of paranoia in my worldview.

Funny story, though. At my dad's funeral, I got up and -- rather than talking about how today he was in Heaven with Jesus since I figured today he was in the hard cold ground with all the forces of incipient putrefaction -- I talked about how he had persevered in spite of his business failures and had never given up. That was pretty much all I had to say.

These comments resulted in a stream of people getting up and saying, in effect, he had so been a good businessman. (And was in heaven. Blah blah blah.)

Later, when my sister and I went through my dad's papers we discovered that some of these people had first-hand knowledge of just how bad a businessman my dad was.

Were they his friends, then? I prefer to think of them as his unindicted co-conspirators or his enablers or just possibly a couple of his creditors in the last throes of self-delusion.

I wasn't his friend, just his son, there at the end, mystified by his checkbook and terrified by his tax returns, trying to clean up his messes.

And all those people at the funeral who did not have the first clue, either the candlestick in the billiard room or the wrench in the hall, saying:

I was your father's friend.

Thank you for letting me tell you this story. I feel better. Whoo. I think I'll blow my nose. Plphutttttt. Thanks for listening.

I consider it




Anonymous said...

Well, first of all I am glad that I am your sister and not your
friend....ha!! That was good, and also difficult to digest as truth usually is


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