Doggone, I hate losing touch with friends, don’t you? Sometimes it just happens — somebody moves away and you promise you’ll stay in touch and at first you do. But the days slip by, become weeks, months, and then it’s Christmas and birthday cards and one day you realize you haven’t heard from her in ages. It’s a natural progression of life, I guess.
Other times it’s deliberate which is sad.
Case in point, Barbara and I were roommates back in the 60s. We took vacations together and had some great adventures. She moved to San Francisco, but came to visit me when I lived in London. I went to visit her when she lived in Paris. Twenty years ago we met up in Arizona when she was there to sort out her mother’s estate.
Barbara and I were opposites in many ways. Most ways I guess: I am conservative, she liberal; I am a Christian and she was raised Catholic and has no use for the whole “religion thing;” she plans for the future, I’m happy to wait and see what happens; she loves to study, I find it a chore. Still, we shared a lot of good times. We taught each other things — she introduced me to the Beatles, I shared my love of classical music; she taught me how to sew and together we dived into gourmet cooking.
Even though we eventually settled in way different places — I in glitzy ever-changing Las Vegas; she in elegant, timeless Paris — we stayed friends. E-mails were exchanged often. Then one day something happened. She forwarded to me a vitriolic article a friend of hers had written. This was during the last election — or perhaps the one before. I, unwisely, hit “reply” and sent the article back, having changed “conservative” or Republican to “liberal” or Democrat. I realize I used poor judgment, but rationalized that she used poor judgment sending it to me in the first place. We had a tacit agreement that we would not discuss religion or politics.
It took awhile for me to realize I had not been hearing from her. At first I was puzzled, then thought back to that exchange. Can she really have thought that bit of lunacy was worth ending a friendship of long-standing and so many shared experiences? Evidently so.
Last week I decided to see if I could find her. Her birthday is in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sending her a birthday card although it has been years since I’ve heard from her. Is she even still alive?
My first instinct was to check Facebook — a surprising number of people with her name, but not her. Then I went to Google and found it searches only the U.S. There must be a way to search a foreign country — and there is. But I have all her information — I know where she lives. What I want to know is, is she still there?
In the vein of not losing touch with friends, I reached out to my old college roommate. Her Christmas card last year didn’t contain the usual letter and her message was brief and cryptic. I sat down and wrote a note — “are you okay? What’s happening?” 72 hours after I posted it, my phone rang and it was her! We hadn’t talked in decades — it was strange to hear her voice again. And indeed, it had been a difficult year with the Grim Reaper making multiple appearances. Suddenly mortality was blinking in bright neon. We talked a long time and in spite of the sadness of her situation, I came away feeling better.
I called another friend I hadn’t heard from — one who often e-mails or posts on Facebook. It occurred to me that I had not heard in awhile, so I e-mailed with no success and finally called. She was fine. She had retired the beginning of the year — how had I missed that — and the e-mails to the old address weren’t checked all that often. We talked a long time and got caught up.
So I’d re-established contact with two friends.
This morning I opened the paper and saw the headlines about the terrorist attacks in Paris. I immediately e-mailed Barbara and hope I’ll hear back, even if it’s just one sentence saying “I’m okay.” These horrible events bring the fragility of life to the forefront in a frightening way. I hope she decides that our friendship is worth renewing and she’ll reach out again.
In the meantime, all I can do is cherish the friends I have and enjoy the time we share. Friends. What would we do without them? Truly a gift from God.