Bad

I did something bad, and I feel bad about it. Say “bad” one more time. Who am I, Michael Jackson?

In 2011, I briefly dated a guy. Let me think: We met in late May, first date in June, and by July it was all over. We gave it about a month of no contact, and then commenced being friends after that. He, too, was newly separated, in that first year North Carolina makes you sit through till you can get a divorce. We’d go to dinner, to movies, get drinks, shop. He was fun to shop with. We got each other Christmas presents and celebrated each other’s birthdays.

That guy was someone I called Dick Whitman. (He was a huge fan of Mad Men, as was I.)

Anyway, we got pretty close. Then life moved on and I met someone I got serious with, and he did, too, but occasionally we’d still hang, usually with the people we were dating.

In 2015, I ended my serious relationship, AS WE ALL KNOW ALL TOO WELL, and I didn’t hear from Dick Whitman. I wasn’t particularly miffed about that: I hadn’t personally told him, I don’t think, and I assumed he’d figure it out soon enough via social media or something. Eventually, his mom told him.

Because here’s the thing: His mom was fabulous. Also, use of colons with an introductory clause is big with me today.

Dick Whitman talked about his mom all the time, and when we’d been dating, he showed me old pictures of her (he knew I was into that, plus also he’s a photographer, so he had what you might call a few photos here and there), and he and I even made a little video for her, so he could “introduce” me.

Air quotes.

Anyway, I finally met her two years after I met Dick Whitman. She was marvelous. We shared a birthday, and a tendency to be outspoken and perhaps unfiltered. I met her two times total, both at Winston-Salem restaurants, as that’s where they both live. And I adored her.

Dick Whitman’s mom became a reader of my blog, and she’d comment here, and on (Face)Book of June. And it was probably one of those places that she learned my relationship was over, and she told her son.

He left me a message then. I was staying at Kaye’s, so it must have been those first six weeks after the breakup. I called him back, but he never returned the call.

During those first six weeks, I also arranged an “I’m Going to Die Alone” party, to be held in December at my house after I’d moved in. I sent out invitations early, probably two months before the party was to commence. Dick Whitman did not reply, but his girlfriend did, saying they’d be there.

But then weeks before the party, she wrote again, saying they’d double-booked and could not come. I never did speak to Dick Whitman, and that is when I got angry at him, for not being there when I really needed a friend.

Look, it was a total chick thing to do, okay? I know that. I was vulnerable. We still have not spoken, except I emailed him last week to say I was sorry that his mother died.

Because she did die. Dick Whitman’s mom’s health declined, and in August I emailed DW’s sister to ask if I could visit. I knew Dick Whitman’s mom was in the hospital, and I wanted to see her. She said yes, please do, she reads your blog, still.

But driving the 40 minutes each way after work wasn’t really feasible, because of my freelance stuff I do at night, and each weekend would just slip by without me getting to Winston. Every weekend I’d say, “I gotta get to Winston” and then I never did.

And then she died.

And now I see Dick Whitman’s sister has unfriended me on Facebook, and I feel terrible. I try to always be the person who comes to the funeral, or who shows up when someone is ill, and I was not that person this time. I know DW’s mom was surrounded by people who loved her, and that she probably didn’t even notice that I wasn’t there, but I wish I’d have been there anyway, as clearly it meant something to DW’s sister that I show up.

So, I was that asshole. And I feel terrible about it, and you don’t have to make me feel better, because I did a bad thing, and it’s okay to feel terrible when you did a bad thing.

Michael Jackson-ly,

June

63 thoughts on “Bad

  1. It is OK to feel terrible when you do a bad thing. But I don’t really think you did a bad thing because you did not do it on purpose. We are all guilty of not always doing everything we should. Life gets in the way sometimes. What’s that saying, something about the Best of Intentions? It’s not too late to make amends. I got upset at a few people who did not come to my Dad’s funeral but I got over it after a while. Reach out to them now. They will appreciate it.

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  2. I’m guilty of the same thing, I still regret it. I will never let that happen again and am now the first one to say, you don’t want regrets when people die, go see them now while you still can.

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  3. I think we have all been that asshole…but it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Even if you feel bad. If that makes sense.

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  4. I’m sorry you’re feeling bad, June.
    I’ve done the same and I know the feeling.
    As you can see, you aren’t alone.
    I love Cheryl’s comment.

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  5. I’m sorry for you and yet, completely understand. Sometimes our own lives OVERWHELM us and things like this happen even though we’d normally never expect to act that way.

    If this was me, I’d probably try to write a letter to DW and/or his sister and just say how very sorry I am.

    P.S. I wondered what happened to her and why she stopped commenting here and on FB. I’m sad to hear that she passed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I also don’t think you did a bad thing. You just didn’t do everything you said you would. There is a big difference. Bad implies malicious intention. I have also been in your position. And I did feel bad that I didn’t follow through. But I will the next time. It’s a stupid way to learn a lesson.

    RIP DW’s mom.

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  7. I had a friend unfriend me and I am not even on FB. I didn’t live up to HER standard of a friend. She knows me and knew me before, I just didn’t GIVE enough of me, my presence,we emailed usually more than once a day, she is an hour and 1/2 away. Makes my presence less likely to happen. We kept up with each others lives through email. That just wasn’t enough for her.
    I have found that I can’t live up to people’s expectations of me. So , I quit going to any funerals, weddings. I decline all invitations. I don’t feel I need to change myself to meet other’s expectations…that is them and I am not them. I am me.
    I need to be me , make myself content.
    You be you ,do what you want , when you want, then you don’t have to feel bad about not doing something someone else thinks you should. You are not them, you are you. No need to change to make others happy.
    I realize this doesn’t help with this situation, but for future reference.
    Maybe you should do a blog about his mom, all the things you liked about her and how she was special , got your humor and such. Or revisit the one you wrote about her before with pictures, I remember. You are you and writing is your gift .

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  8. I’m sorry you feel bad but go a little easier on yourself. You did not set out to maliciously hurt/offend/upset DW’s mom, sister, or him. I’ve have done the same thing and have also felt awful.

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    1. I ‘m just replying to Jan cause she’s conveniently here. I did write to DW’s sister apologizing. Also, in unrelated news, if you’ve asked to join Facebook of June and did not answer the questions, you need to do so before I can approve you. Thanks.

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  9. I agree with the others. You did not do a bad thing intentionally and it is not too late to express your condolences or whatever. She is still dead, after all (see: Hell, Going Straight to).

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  10. We all have done this. Send a really nice sympathy card to DW and his sister, write a note to them about how you adored her and what a wonderful person she was and how much you regret not getting to Winston to see her. You are an excellent writer and certainly have eloquent words to convey your sympathy and heartfelt regrets. She really was an amazing woman I will miss her comments here and Facebook. RIP TC, aka DW’s Mom.

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    1. Exactly what Tee said. Be kind to yourself. We all have things we wish we had done, words we wish we had said; none of that makes you a bad person.

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  11. I have a wonderful friend who is so great at being there for others. She has a big family and a busy life, but she is always so thoughtful! I want to be more like her, but mostly a feel like a crappy person!

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  12. Oh man, yep. Been there. Still there, actually. My office is right on the edge of a residential area and the sweetest old couple lived across the street (well, she was sweet, he was cantankerous but he liked me) who used to bring us cans of pop and baked bread and just treated us like gold. She got ill and they had to send her to a nursing home that is 10 minutes from my office. Then he got to where he couldn’t live alone and he’s now in a Veteran’s home that is 15 minutes away. I haven’t been to visit either one of them and I feel like such a heel for it, but a year has passed and now I feel like it’s too late to go see them. And from what I hear from their kids (the son moved into the house across the street) they are both suffering from dementia and probably wouldn’t even know who I was. I have major guilt that I never took the time to go visit either one of them.

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    1. GG w/G, it is never too late. Go see them. If they remember, that is great, if they don’t your heart is happier. Tell the son, if you see them so he will know. If they are still alive, it is never too late.

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  13. It’s natural to feel guilt about something like that and what happened is a completely common occurrence. Most humans have done similar things. I think it’s important to remember that when people experience a loved one’s decline in health and then their death that they can be especially sensitive. My father recently died and I had to remind myself to not get my nose all out of joint about things that would normally wouldn’t bother me. I had to remind my mother too.

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  14. I think we have all been in this situation. Regret sucks. But I love that you have reached out to them even down the road. Often people who lose someone get lots of condolences and support in the first month, and then everyone disappears. I really believe it is never to late to show love. Even years down the road, love feels good.

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  15. Amarabray, people I love who have lost parents tell me the later condolences, when most people had moved on, are especially meaningfull. I agree, it is never too late.

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  16. yeah I imagine we all have at least a short list of stuff like that. I have a long one. I’ll wallow with you for a bit because the bad feelings wash over from time to time.

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  17. On the flip side, all those people who didn’t send thank you notes or invitations or RSVPs to me are in one column and all my neglects are in the other. Stuff like this balances out.

    You’re not bad, Coot, but I’m sorry you feel bad.

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  18. She unfriended you on Facebook and you know what that looks and feels like from your end. But a parent’s death is shattering. The loving thing is to allow the kicking and screaming (however metaphorical it may be) without taking it personally.

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  19. I have a question: what do you want out of this, um, “your bad”? I totally have no expectations of an answer because a) you have a life and b) I’m a random internet stranger who is prob an asshat, so no worries if no answer.

    I ask because I’ve been on the receiving end (similar to what happened to DW’s sister). So maybe I know what she is going through and I guess I’m curious as to whether you want her forgiveness or personal growth or just the sweet and supportive comments from your lovely readers or the catharsis of writing it or? But again, I realize I have no biz asking a personal q like this so.

    Thank you for sharing something like this though. You are a beautiful writer who writes beautifully.

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    1. I guess mostly I wrote this because it was on my mind today. She won’t see this, I don’t think. But I wrote an apology to DW’s sister because when you do something unkind, you apologize. No expectations of her beyond that.

      >

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  20. Listen, Michael, you are not bad. Your sincere apology is enough. While I understand that you regret not going to visit DW’s mom, I’m pretty certain she is enjoying heaven and not thinking “Well, this place is great, but DANG, I wish June had come to see me first.” I’m sorry that she passed away. She seemed like a lovely lady, and I enjoyed her company here.

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  21. We have all been where June is, and most of us have been where DW’s sister is, and exactly ALL of us will be where DW’s mom is. All these comments makes me think it would behoove us to follow those nagging little reminders we get saying go visit, make the call, send the card before it’s too late and we have regrets. No-one needs to beat themselves up over the things never done, just try to make the better choice moving forward.

    Here is my favorite reading to give at memorial services. This is for you, DW’s Mom.
    Parable On Immortality

    I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There she goes.”

    Gone where? Gone from my sight…that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes”, there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

    Henry Van Dyke

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  22. I hope his family had the chance to see the comments us pie peeps made about her. She touched her imaginary internet friends lives too. I think you did the right thing by sending her a letter. I am bad about how to properly express my sympathy. I saw my husband’s cousin this weekend that miscarried and I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t bring it up. We did bring her some rumchata to sneak into her coffee while we were baking at the church for her parent’s anniversary party to help with all of the “aunts” in the kitchen.

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    1. When you don’t know what to say, a simple, “I’m sorry” is enough. And don’t go on and on about your own children when a mother has recently lost one of hers.

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  23. How funny, out of nowhere a few weeks ago I was thinking about Mrs. Dick Whitman’s Mom. I’m sorry to hear she passed. While of course I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I enjoyed her on your blog and am grateful for the smiles she gave me.

    Being the asshole always sucks. We’ve all been the sucky asshole more than we care to admit. While we will never behave perfectly all the time, I do think when we admit our assholery it influences us to try to do better in the future.

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  24. I have done that very same thing. And it made no sense because I adored the person. Absolutely adored. I still hate myself for it.

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  25. I agree with all those who have said you didn’t do anything as and that it’s not too late. I’ve read over and over again that families get a lot of support immediately following someone passing but that they appreciate on-going support and treasure hearing others’ stories about their loved one. Maybe you can offer both at this time?

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  26. Oh hon…you aren’t “bad” and didn’t do a “bad” thing as there was no malicious intent; you are human. You’ve apologized there really isn’t much more you can do. Forgive yourself.

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  27. If you search the (Face)Book of June site for Tomasue Clark you can see all of the wonderful comments that DW’s Mom left for all of us. It made me feel so happy and grateful for what we have here.

    Lovely post, June.

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  28. I understand the regret. But also remember that knowing you and reading your blog brought her a lot of joy. That’s no small thing. It’s not just what you give at the end of someone’s life; it’s what you give during that person’s life.

    When my mom was ill, I can’t tell you the number of people that said they were planning to come by that didn’t. The vast majority, actually. Plus, even though my mom always said, “Oh, yes, I’d love to see you” to them, she’d then hang up and say to me, “Oh, I hope they don’t really come, I’m just not up for it.” So you never know. I’ve been in the hospital myself, and dreaded the idea of people coming to see me, because it was just so awkward and forced and uncomfortable, even with my own daughter.

    When Mom died, I was exhausted physically and emotionally fr months afterward, and became pretty reclusive. If there had been FB back then, I probably would have cut back on my number of friends, too. (By the way, how do you know when someone unfriends you?) She may be just pulling inward for awhile. Or yeah, she could also be thinking about “real friends” versus “not real friends.” A death can make things appear black and white like that. But only for awhile.

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  29. I understand the regret. But also remember that knowing you and reading your blog and connecting with the group brought her a lot of joy. That’s no small thing. It’s not just what you give at the end of someone’s life; it’s what you give during that person’s life.

    When my mom was ill, I can’t tell you the number of people that said they were planning to come by that didn’t. The vast majority, actually. Plus, even though my mom always said, “Oh, yes, I’d love to see you” to them, she’d then hang up and say to me, “Oh, I hope they don’t really come, I’m just not up for it.” So you never know. I’ve been in the hospital myself, and dreaded the idea of people coming to see me, because it was just so awkward and forced and uncomfortable, even with my own daughter.

    When Mom died, I was exhausted physically and emotionally for months afterward, and became pretty reclusive. If there had been FB back then, I probably would have cut back on my number of friends, too. (By the way, how do you know when someone unfriends you?) She may be just pulling inward for awhile. Or yeah, she could also be thinking about “real friends” versus “not real friends.” A death can make things appear black and white like that. But only for awhile.

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  30. Yup, been there many times and I still feel terrible. But see, it’s reading posts like this one and reading the comments that I learn something and it sticks with me and makes me a better human being. I am going to rethink before not taking time to visit. Thank you for this post, Joob.

    DW’s Mom is missed here very much.

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  31. I remember so many pictures and stories you posted about DW’s mom. I hope you can believe that she knew how much you loved her and you can rest assured that she loved you right back. Fucking death.

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  32. Sometimes it’s easier to be angry with someone who’s living; there’s a good chance you’re taking the hit for loss in general but it sucks all the way around. I always really respected DW’s mom’s comments and am sad to hear of her passing.

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  33. Ah. This feels yucky. I hate regret. I think it is one of the most useless emotions. It only makes you feel bad, and there is absolutely nothing you can do but try and make amends, or live with your decision–which is,of course, the wrong one…hence–regret.

    I think we all have had good intentions that are not met. Some have bigger consequences than others. I think that the consequences that we unleash on ourselves are bad enough, without people outside adding to them. It seems heavy handed to me that DW’s sister became angry at you. I have been through a death of a parent and there are a lot of things that are negative about it, but, people who reached out in any way were only appreciated. It was nice of you to contact her at all. It was also nice of you to write her a note of apology. Now it is really up to her to be able to be a bit more objective to see that your intentions count. Sending love out into the world for someone–anyone–counts.

    I remember feeling the love from this here blog when my dad passed away. It is one of the things I am most grateful for. You often send love outward, and this incident is still an example of that. Even if you didn’t get there to visit, the fact that DW’s mom was in your heart at the time counts.

    Very nice, Coot.

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  34. I am so very sorry to hear of the passing of DW’s mother. I always liked her comments. She seemed like someone that I would like. May Her Memory Be Eternal!

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