James Taylor got it right, but it depends on which “friends” you have

The very popular song from way back in 1971 expressed so very well the true value of real friends, but it also had an ominous verse, for me, at least.

Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They’ll hurt you and desert you
Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them

These days Facebook is chocked full of “false friends” who delight in pretending to be actual friends. Most of these have never met you in real life. Many of them are just there to criticize you and insult you when you say something they don’t like. Some just friend you because they think that their value is somehow determined by the sheer number of friends they have. Some just want to air their opinions, good and bad, because they are very lonely. I guess I fall into that last category.

In real life there’s nothing quite as wonderful as having great friends. They share the good times with you and build strong and lasting memories. I always considered that I had a lot of those, mostly because I have lived in a lot of places in my life. Like most people I had school friends, first when I lived in Toronto as a young kid, then in Churchville at a one-room schoolhouse, then in high school in Streetsville. That’s when I first joined the group I played in for ten years during which I made tons of people I would call friends. During my twenty-three year marriage we made a lot of friends as a couple, many of those with our son and daughter’s sports, traveling all over the place for tournaments. When my failed marriage was clearly over and my mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer In 1993 I moved to the Okanagan in BC to spend what time she had left with her, having been apart for more than twenty years. Thankfully she beat the odds and survived another fourteen years and I ended up spending those fourteen years in the Okanagan where I met an incredible group of simply fantastic friends, the best of my life.

In 2007 disaster struck, which I have detailed elsewhere, and my doctor told me that I had to leave to survive, so I moved to Boquete, Panama and stayed for just under two years. Met a lot of people, some good and some not so good, who ripped me off and I was forced back to Canada. My darling cousin, Joan Thomson, in Toronto gave me refuge for several months until I met a girl and moved to London, Ontario, where I spent the next uneventful five years, and hardly made any friends. I did meet one man, Siege Pedde, who changed my life by giving me a job and lending me the money to buy a car at a time I was living in shelters.

As I approached pension age and knew I could not possibly afford to live in Canada on my measly pensions I started researching warmer climes where the cost of living was lower and discovered Ecuador. I moved to Cotacachi in the mountains and soon made many friends, both Expats and locals, including my soon to be fiancee. Patricia. Again disaster struck when I didn’t get one of my pensions and I was forced back to Canada again, this time to Belleville to live in a house in the country owned by my dear friend Heather’s son. Yet another disaster when I was left freezing in the dead of winter with no heat and I moved into my first group home and spent the next two years moving around various group homes. The various guys I lived with could never be considered friends, but the President of the charity that ran the homes, Bob Cottrell, sure was. He helped me immensely over the next two years, especially when I returned to Canada for my visa.

Then it was off to here in Mexico, originally on a six-month tourist visa to just check it out. Within days I met a host of people I thought were going to become really good friends. Then I met the proverbial love of my life, Elba, and we planned to get married as soon as I got my visa and came back to stay here in Mexico. Not only did we have a wonderful group of friends together, but she also introduced me to her large family, including her two wonderful sons who were soon calling me Dad. It was the happiest time of my life.

It’s over a year ago now and getting dumped came dangerously close to killing me. I saw no point in going on. I felt totally worthless. I had no future. I was filled with dark thoughts of swimming out in the lake far enough not to make it back. It’s was only through the grace of two real friends at the time, Violeta and Don, that I survived. They convinced me that I wasn’t worthless and that I would be missed. That was then, and this is now. How things have changed with both of them.

Last October I discovered that I only had twenty-eight dollars in the bank in the middle of the month. I had no idea how I was going to survive and I got very depressed, thinking my life was over. I reached out for help on Facebook and got an onslaught of horrible attacks, both public and private. “Suck it up”, “Quit whining”, “Grow up”, “Stop f*cking posting”, and worse in private messages. It became painfully clear that these people I had thought were friends were not. I was shocked and deeply hurt. About a month before this I had adopted my best Buddy, Rollie, my new dog. We had so much fun together and he filled a very big void in my life. After I had gotten very drunk and was chatting online with my friend Christine, she sent over a doctor, Dr. Lupita, and some of her colleagues to talk to me. She held my hand and promised to help me with food and even some website work to earn a little money. She also said she would talk to the animal rescue operation, who had been threatening to take Rollie from me, to convince them that this would be the very worst time to take him from me. It didn’t matter. They showed up unannounced the next morning and took him from me. Losing my best buddy at such a distressing time nearly killed me. I never heard from the good doctor again. So much for getting the help I so desperately needed.

To make matters even worse this was also the time I started to run out of my critical diabetic medications that I had brought back from Canada in April, without which I would be at great risk of having a heart attack or stroke and would die. Someone told me that I could get my meds from a place called Seguro Popular in Chapala. With help from John Kelly, the President of the Canadian Legion here, I went to the office to apply. After pulling together tons of documents and going to the office three times the doctor informed me that they couldn’t help me. Dead end, literally.

In desperation, I contacted the nurse at my doctor’s office back in Belleville to see if there was any way they would renew my meds without seeing me. When I hadn’t heard back from her I took a chance and called the pharmacy and learned that my doctor had been charged with some offense and his clinic closed. The pharmacist was very understanding and agreed to give me a three-month renewal until I could find another doctor. My friend, Doral, agreed to pick them up for me and ship them to me. I asked her to give me the size and weight so I could check out what courier to use, but she sent them by mail. That was last January 18th. I didn’t know at the time that customs here seizes all meds not sent by bonded courier. Yet another dead end, this time terminal. 

Now that the end is near I again reached out to the friends I thought I had in the world. Although it may well have been pointless, one of my many regrets was that I have maintained this website for more than ten years now, basically a diary of my life since starting to write. In all that time not a single person has ever added a comment, good or bad. I was totally mystified and confused, especially for one post that took me days to create because I listed every friend’s name who I could remember, adding links to their Facebook pages if they existed and asking them to comment. Not a soul responded. Recently I did another Facebook post appealing to my “friends” in all those places to please comment on this site. I prefaced the comment with “my time in Mexico was coming to an end”, not wanting to sound overly dramatic by saying I was leaving feet first. I got only one comment from a stranger, a Facebook friend, saying that she would read more and comment. Not one friend responded. Sad.

I guess it all boils down to how naive I am. People have always said I was a likable guy and a good friend. I truly thought that these people were my friends and that they cared at least a little for me. Not so. No one cares if I live or die. Many of the people I thought I was really close to, people who I thought cared as much about me as I cared about them, totally abandoned me. My best buddy in the whole world, Wade Silver, who had been my closest friend for fourteen years in the Okanagan, never said a word. Those two friends who had saved me after I was dumped, Violeta and Don, haven’t said a word. Don ended up marrying Elba but said our friendship would not change. Wrong. I left two heartfelt messages on Facebook Messenger for Violeta, begging to see her one more time, went unanswered. Even my desperate pleas to Christine, who had agreed to handle my affairs after I was gone, have gone unanswered for months now. I’ve had to turn to John Kelly again for help, but so far he hasn’t responded either. 

Obviously part of the reason I have found myself in such a mess is the fact that I haven’t made a dime with my websites. Despite more than two years of working all day, every day, building my sites I knew I had to do something, so I offered to sell a forty-nine percent interest in my umbrella site, The Mexico Today Group. I sent a detailed proposal to people I knew had money and who would make a fortune by investing in the business. Siege Pedde back in London, Ontario. Jon LeHoup, who I had worked for decades ago. Francis Dryden, who had befriended me before I loved to Mexico and had helped me to find my first apartment. Frank Roberts, who was recently here in Mexico. And many more. Not just people who I knew had the money, but people who knew other investors and might pass the proposal on. Not a single response. When I followed up with Frank a few days after sending him the proposal, asking him if he had read it, he said that he thought the fact that he hadn’t answered me was my answer. Cruel. Not even so much as a thanks but no thanks after all the effort I had put into the proposal to him.

I can’t comment on friends without also including my family. Again I’ve gone into great depth elsewhere about what happened with my family so I won’t repeat myself here, save to say that to this day I don’t understand what happened with my kids, Christopher and Heather. They both encouraged me to leave my terrible marriage and move out West where they saw how happy I was. They both understood after I ended my marriage and went out West to be with my dying mother for whatever time she had left. The day I left my daughter to go out West I never once thought that it would be the last time I would ever see her. I figured she would come out on vacation as she had done before. That was over twenty-four years ago and not a day has gone by that I don’t miss her with all my heart. Chris and I reconnected way back in 2009 and I was to meet his three daughters but that never happened and he ended up blocking me on Facebook. One of his daughters, Mackenzie, connected with me on Messenger when she was fourteen and I was thrilled. She was very upset that her parents hadn’t let her make her own decision about connecting with me. We had many great chats and she told me she was coming to Mexico for a wedding. She was going to let me know where and when and I was praying that I could somehow afford to go and meet her. That was months ago and she stopped talking to me for some reason. 

The only family member I have maintained any contact with is my dear cousin, Joan, but even that has turned sour. Admittedly in my depths of depression, I wrote emails to her explaining my situation and telling her I was about to give up and why. I included my last ditch effort, my website called JustADollar.com.mx, a fund-raising site to save myself and go on to leave a legacy for myself by doing good works here in Mexico. My goal, quite possibly absurd, is to raise a hundred million dollars, a dollar at a time. I asked her to visit the site and let me know what she thought of it, but she either didn’t read my email or didn’t go to the site or didn’t think much of it. I’ll never know. After she rescued me and I lived with her for several months after returning from Panama all those years ago Joan knows all too well how tough my family situation with my kids has been on me and I thought she understood that she was the only family I had left, but I guess not. Just like everyone else in the world, at least in my world, no one cares.   

               

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