The other day I had an unhappy task, the ending of a friendship. It wasn’t my choice, yet it was.
I had helped this friend at times, at least I like to think I had. And my friend had helped me.
But a time came when I was asked not to contact that friend. I was hurt, and reacted badly. It was not a good time to lose a friend, I had lost my wife five months earlier.
When I say I reacted badly, I mean via email. As soon as I clicked the send button I regretted it. My sentiment was honest, but I could have entertained that sentiment without sharing.
That all took place a year ago. Now I needed a clean break. A meeting was arranged, things were exchange … and my friend and I said goodbye. It was heart-wrenching for me. We both played it cool, though perhaps my friend wasn’t playing, I can’t vouch for their feelings.
I walked away from this exchange wearing coolness like a suit of armour, determined to be chill, aloof, determined never to be in a place where I could be hurt again. I was so focused on this as I walked across the street to my truck and unlocked the door. So focused as I glanced down the street to check traffic before yanking my door open. So focused as I saw a woman walking gingerly up the street towards me.
She was older than I, and not moving very well. She was bent over, carrying three or four bags of shopping in the hand that wasn’t holding her cane. She was on the street, not the sidewalk. She would walk a few feet, head down, carefully picking her way through ice and slush, then look across the street.
“Is she looking for her car?” I wondered. But my second thought was “Kelly boy, you aren’t really in the mood to help anyone.”
Then something in me twitched, something I can’t help. I lost my focus, and a million distracted thoughts shot through my mind. Thoughts like “If this was your mother, wouldn’t you want to be able to believe someone would care?” and “If this job belonged to someone else, she’d be on some other street approaching some other pickup truck and some other guy.”
I shook my head, like waking up, like remembering who I was.
I shook my head, like waking up, like remembering who I was. I pulled open the truck door, threw my bag onto the seat … closed the door and turned toward the woman. “Are you trying to find your car, ma’am?”
“No … ” she said, then laughed, “I’m trying to see if there’s a place between two cars that’s been shovelled, where I can get up onto the sidewalk.”
I looked up the street and saw the break I knew was there. “There’s a hydrant three cars up,” I told her, “I know they’ve cleared the snow there. How far are you going?” I asked.
“The end of the block and around behind the bank,” she told me, “I’m parked there.”
She had stopped by my truck to speak to me, we both stood on the street. I reached out, opened my truck door, hit the lock button and slammed it closed. “Can I carry those bags for you?” I asked.
She looked at me, sized me up, said “That, would be lovely.”
I took her bags, leaving her better able to balance. With me leading, she concentrated on walking. “I’m supposed to have this hip replaced soon. I’ll get around better then.” She said.
I said that sounded like something to look forward to, we chatted about weather and snowbanks and spring coming.
It took a while to get where we were going, but rounding the corner we found her car. I put her bags into the back seat. She thanked me and said she hoped she hadn’t kept me from anything important.
I told her she had given me something more important to do. I didn’t tell her that she’d taught me focus isn’t always good, and distraction isn’t always bad. Sometimes having ADHD is the right way to be. Sometimes being highly sensitive to someone else’s needs is a needed tonic. If you ignore that sensitivity, you might end up a mean and bitter person.
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Last reviewed: 10 Feb 2013