The Ethics of Friends: Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong?
I am an excellent friend and confidant. Are you? Unfortunately, there are so many gray areas concerning perspectives and understandings of friendship that right and wrong become blurred and lost in translation. Ethically, I think there are obvious rules most people go by, such as never cheat, lie to, or steal from a friend. There are also unspoken expectations of support, respect, and love. With that being said, what would you do if a life-long friend ignored you and refused to return your calls and texts without warning? What if, for example, this friend thought you were important enough to ask to be their only child’s godparent, yet made no attempt to show support after you sent texts and left messages about a life changing, upcoming surgery? Sadly, this exact situation happened to me.
On January 6th, 2011, my surgeon, Dr. Anthony Rhorer, called to tell me that he had a portion of donor bone for my femur. I had been waiting for this piece of cadaver femur since my fifth knee surgery in September of 2010. It was the last piece of the puzzle to put my destroyed knee back together; I was dependent upon this surgery to ever walk again. I was told my surgery would be in one week because bone is only good for up to two weeks after it’s harvested from the donor. I couldn’t believe it! My race against all odds was finally almost over. The red tape and trophy were in sight.
After hanging up the phone, I immediately called my close friends and family first to tell them the exciting, yet frightening news. It was frightening because if this surgery did not work my left leg would have to be amputated below my thigh. This type of bone grafting surgery had a thirty percent success rate in Arizona at the time, and all the other options were “catch-22” situations that weren’t practical solutions. Bone grafting to my femur and replacement of my MCL using a cadaver femur and MCL was the only option! So, of course, I called or texted those close to me to let them know the good news, as well as to be comforted. I needed to be reassured that yes, this surgery would work, and no, I would not lose my leg – not after all that I’d been through.
I spoke to a lot of the different people in my life, with my first call being to my parents and little sister in Tampa, Florida. My mom talked to me about it in depth for what seemed like hours. Her calming voice and loving words reassured me, “You will walk again, my love.” I called my older sister, Becka, and made plans with her to drive me to the hospital, as well as to my doctor’s appointment the morning before surgery. She, too, was elated by the news and helped to calm my fears. She assured me, “Yes, everything will be fine.” Even my alcoholic, self-obsessed roommate, Jessica, made a big deal of it. She tried, in her own way, to put me at ease by taking me out to celebrate with drinks. Every person I contacted, regardless of how involved in my life they were, responded to my texts or calls with encouraging words or to tell me I was in their prayers. However, one person, a very important person to me, did not, and I still haven’t heard from her since.
The person I wanted to talk to so badly was my best friend of twelve years, Danielle. I could only contact her by phone or mail at the time because she had moved to Flagstaff, Arizona two years prior. She was my sister-from-another-mister, and we had always been there for each other. We were always just at peace, happy, and comforted when we were around each other. I wanted – no, I needed to hear her voice tell me the same things all these other people had, including people I’d only known a couple months.
The first person I wanted to talk to after calling my immediate family was Danielle. I tried texting her first because of her ever-changing schedule, explaining the magnitude of greatness and scariness about my news. After a few hours, I figured she was busy with work or her daughter, Breelynn. She’ll get back to me later, I thought. As the day passed without hearing from her, I called her to make sure her phone was on. It was, but there was no answer. I left her a message similar to the text I’d sent earlier. I had gotten used to waiting a day or two before hearing back from Danielle, and I was not too worried at this point. I went to sleep later that night with mixed feelings and butterflies in my stomach, feeling positive that she would contact me tomorrow once she heard my voicemail.
The next day rolled around, and I awoke to many missed calls and texts from people wishing me good luck, congratulating me, and asking questions. I still had yet to hear from Danielle. Where was she, I asked myself. Did she get my oh-so-important message and texts, I speculated. I waited again until finally another day passed without hearing from her. With two days down and five more until my surgery, I wondered helplessly, will she ever get a hold of me? I anxiously tried to contact her numerous times throughout the rest of the week, hoping she was just busy and would get back to me before “D-Day”. Regardless, each of the remaining five days went by in the same manner, filled with mixed emotions of elation and fear and without ever hearing from her. Did she even care, I pondered.
The day of my surgery came and went, the surgery itself having been successful. Still, I hadn’t heard a peep from Danielle. I’d lie in my hospital bed, hopped up on Morphine, Percocet, and Oxycontin, or “Oxycotton” rather, barely able to move. I hoped and prayed she would call or text so I could just talk to her and tell her what was going on. Although the surgery itself was a success, my body still had the chance of rejecting the bone graft to my femur. I was still frightened, and I knew if I could just hear her voice I would feel a lot better because she always had a way of calming me down in difficult situations and vice versa. Again, we had always been there for each other through thick and thin…so where was Danielle now when I needed her more than I ever had in the entire twelve years I’d known her?
I was in the hospital for a week, trying as I might to get in touch with her. Friends and family came to visit or contacted me by phone daily, all except for Danielle. After that, I was transferred to an inpatient physical therapy center where I spent the following week waiting and hoping and praying, yet again, and still to no avail. How could she do this to me, I questioned. I was the person she had said she loved so much over the years, the person she wanted to be her roommate eventually when we both had the money. How could she just forget and/or ignore me, the only person who helped her better her life when she was the one in trouble?
I tried to believe that perhaps she lost her phone or that it was shut off. I talked to my older sister and my mom about it incessantly, trying to get their take on what might be going on and asking if they’d heard from her. I feared something was wrong with her because she hadn’t ever gone this long and not gotten back to me when something major was going on. I cried and agonized over the loss of her friendship; I felt she had given up on me, but I hadn’t a clue as to why.
It has been almost a year since my sixth knee surgery, and I have yet to hear from her. I sent her texts and left voicemails about how I was doing for the first five or six months. In addition, I’ve pleaded with her through my messages to call me to at least let me know she and Bree are alright. Within the past few months, though, I have stopped talking about her and wondering for the most part. It hurts too much to think she isn’t the person I thought she was and that she doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, her ghost still lingers when I see mutual friends or am asked about her, pulling at my heart-strings and bringing me back to the same questions I asked myself a year ago. In fact, her mother, Gail, messaged me on Facebook last month to tell me, “Happy birthday.” I messaged her back with new hope and asked her about Danielle, but I got no response. Our friend, Sarah, still lives in Glendale and has told me when we hung out once that she heard from Danielle. Apparently, Danielle has been doing fine and has moved in with her boyfriend as well as gone back to school to get her GED.
So why then, if she is doing so well, has she not contacted me – her sister, friend, and confidant? Did I do something wrong, I still ask myself. A million questions plague my mind: Why doesn’t she have enough love and respect to just pick up a phone, if only just for five minutes? How could she be such a bad friend? Did she not care that I had only a thirty percent success rate in regards to my bone graft healing, let alone that I could have died while in surgery? Is she not proud of me that I can now walk after fighting with force and ferocity against all odds to keep my leg intact? Will she ever return my calls and texts?
The last person to ask me about her was my dad while I visited my family for Thanksgiving. He inquired as to how she was doing because, as I expressed before, this friend was like a sister to me. In turn, she was like family to my parents and sisters as well. My answer came swiftly and bitterly because it eats me not knowing what is going on with her or why she hasn’t thought to call me. My dad said, “Well, Liz…ya know, there’s a lot of people I was friends with when I was younger that I have gone years and years without talking to. People get caught up in their own lives and just don’t have the time. Maybe she is just busy.”
The thing is, I understand all of that…but not from her. This has never happened before. She has never just dropped off the face of the planet for years at a time. I believe that when friends love each other deep within their soul, as Danielle and I did (and I still do), then it should be no skin off their back to make a phone call, especially when one or the other is faced with losing life or limb. What’s one phone call in order to make sure a friend close to your heart is safe and happy? Isn’t that the ethics of true friends – the principles of soul sisters? I would expect and accept this from other people, the “fair weather” people in my life, but not from her.
Am I right or wrong; who is to say? This is my truth, and these are my friend ethics. I can tell you, however, that if situations were reversed I would be there for both her and her daughter in a heartbeat, just as I have been before. Regardless of what my dad says or what anyone else thinks, what she did and continues to do is wrong. The least she could do is have enough respect for me to say something…say anything, even if it’s just to tell me to fuck off.