Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 56

with 4 comments

The days now present themselves with big white graphic numbers appearing over a black screen, landing with the same sound effect that they used in the one episode of Law & Order I saw.  As the day fades in, I am a character in my day waiting for the story to unfold.  Some days, I know what I’m going to write about in advance: as soon as I made an appointment to wax my back that day wrote itself (with some help from a sadistic Russian woman).  Other days I have to search hard for meaning, and in the process will usually do something stupid to my wife or kids that will ultimately be what my day was about.   On Saturdays, the stories are harder to find because my world is smaller.  It’s designed that way: to give me an island of “peace” in my otherwise chaotic week– as in my yoga practice, I usually find the serenity only in the final minutes.  Today, unfortunately, my story presented itself early and clearly.  I found out that a good friend of mine got a big job offer cross country.  And not even cross this country– cross Canada!

This would make the second close friend I have lost in the last year.  The first happened at the end of this past summer and was a loss for our entire family.  As a father, I can honestly say I don’t like most of my kids’ friends.  It’s not personal, they’re seven year old boys and ten year old girls– groups of people I have nothing in common with.  Plus, it’s hard enough to like your own kids, let’s be honest, so how can you like other people’s kids?  People don’t talk about it, but it’s true.  There are some people we don’t see because we don’t like their kids, and there are people we don’t see because they don’t like ours.  (And by the way, why don’t you like our kids?  They’re much better than your ill-behaved brats!)   It’s a very rare combination to find kids you like who have parents you like.  What’s impossible to find is when you like their kids and your kids like their kids and you like them and they like your kids.  That’s lottery time. And that’s what we had with our friends who moved away last summer.

When the Campbells first told us they had decided to put their house up for sale in Los Angeles to move back east, I did what every good friend would do– I prayed that they wouldn’t be able to sell their house.  When they said they sold their house, I rooted for the sale to fall through– and it did!  But then they sold it to someone else, for even more money.  Why do bad things keep happening to me?!  I then tried to divide and conquer– appealing to Mrs. Campbell about how good our kids were together– “Your kids love my kids, and my kids are freaks!  And we love your freaky kids!  That just doesn’t happen every day!”  Mr. Campbell then said to me, as he should have, “What the hell are you doing?  My wife is getting really upset about moving.”  I responded, “I’m just being a good friend by trying to get you to stay because it’s better for me.”  I was hoping that honesty would be the ticket.  It wasn’t.  The ticket was a one way ticket to Middleofnowhere, Connecticut where they bought a house 25% bigger than ours for 25% of the cost.  That was the main reason they moved: it was too expensive for them to live in LA, and they have family who live in Middleofnowhere.  I can’t really begrudge them that from a logical place, but I’m not logical, I’m almost purely emotional.  And from an emotional place, the thing that killed me– and that still gives me a lump in my throat as I write it– was when my wife said to Mrs. Campbell, “The worst part will be not getting to watch our kids grow up together.”

We promised to stay in touch, and we do via email and the occasional Skype call when both sets of kids aren’t off doing something either country-like, in Connecticut, or suburban-sprawl-like, in LA.  As for me, I do my part by sending them pictures of me in shorts every time the temperature goes below 30 degrees in Connecticut, and sending them gifts with notes attached that say, “You proved your point, now come home!”   I keep hoping against hope that they’ll come back– I even offered to have them be guardians of our kids if we died which would mean a free house in Los Angeles, but even that wasn’t enough to pull the Campbells away from his parents and their 6,000 square foot, 2 acre of lakefront property $230,000 house.  I know the expression if you love someone set them free, but it works better as a Police song than as a practical strategy.  My Crazy- ex loved me and she set me free and I immediately went to Vegas for a weekend I still can’t remember, then came home and three days later started dating the girl I would marry six months after that.  How’d that work out for you, Crazy Ex?  The same way that the Campbells worked out for us– they married Connecticut.

I have a slightly different relationship with my friend who got the job offer today.  We don’t have the same “family bond” that my family had with the Campbells, but this friend is no less important– and in many ways more important to me and my family.  Beyond being a friend, he is our spiritual guide and mentor.  As I get older I can still ask my parents for advice about certain things, but they’ve been removed from most of the things I go through for decades.  Friends can give advice, but it’s rarely objective and often not relevant to what you’re going through and may have a level of shadenfreude to it that people don’t talk about, but let’s face it, it exists.  And advice from other family members usually comes with so many layers of subtext and history that I can guarantee that the thing you started talking about is not what you’re going to remember from the conversation which will ultimately turn to how you were raised.  But with my friend who got the job offer, it’s different.  He is sage and honest and objective without an ounce of jealousy or ulterior motive, and most of all, he only has mine and my family’s best interest in mind.  In my experience, that’s even harder to find that two families who love each others’ kids.

And that’s the hard part.  I desperately don’t want him to leave, but I have to remove what I want from the equation, because I know if the shoe was on the other foot, he’d want what’s best for me.  Which is what makes him a good friend, the kind I don’t want to leave.  See what I’m going through here?   I’m going to do whatever I can to keep him from moving: guilt, bribes, charts comparing Canada weather to LA weather.  But at the end of the day, the only thing that makes a friendship worth having is that it’s a two-way street.  So as much as it goes against everything I feel, if I consider him a true friend– and if I’m as much of a friend to him as he claims I am, I’ll have to let him free.   And hope and pray that he doesn’t marry Canada.


Written by 100daysoff

April 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. This was good too. I kinda wanted to slow clap when I finished reading.


    April 9, 2011 at 10:57 pm

  2. Your friend is fortunate to have you as a friend. I’m sure no matter where he goes he’ll never find anyone as special as you.

    Dan Campbell

    April 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  3. (wiping a slight tear from eye)

    Michael Lebit

    April 10, 2011 at 7:04 pm

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