This last day of July in what few would argue not an exceptional year, I received word from the Rust Belt that the wife of a friend of many years passed yesterday. Her husband, my friend since high school, and that, boys and girls, requires a long look backward, turned-in his ticket maybe two years ago. When he was still cranky and making wise, we joked to each other about our running on someone else’s time. We felt we’d not been paying attention when our numbers were called years before. Details here, serve no purpose. We discounted our tardiness, since when the mistake was discovered and we were called to task, what punishment could there possibly be?
As happens with time and sadly with people, maintaining contact after my friend’s death became less important. Frankly, I felt that staying in touch with my friend’s family was an intrusion on their privacy, their ability to move on. So I didn’t. Stay in touch.
This news though, calling-up memories, forces me to again re-examine where I am at this point, and what I mean to those around me. Less what they mean to me, because as difficult as it is for them to see, they always have been and will remain the essence of my life. The difficulty is in that I am hard, raised by my father, no-nonsense because times taught me to be so, possessed of a peculiar sense of humor, and working with questionable intelligence. If that isn’t bad enough, times have exponentially changed, and I find myself so far out of step it’s sometimes scary.
There is in my electronic file cabinet, a poem I probably should finish. It represents the reflections of an old chieftain, a Native American, however it is one should be politically correct and refer to such an individual. He assigns no fault, but realizes other elders, tribal youth, and even revered spirits of nature no longer depend on or value his existence. He rightly determines it in the best interests of all, including himself, to make the final journey. Not talking suicide here, but something though you and I might not completely understand or appreciate it, noble. Elaborating would obviate ever completing the work. And that work makes me examine my deeper understanding of life. My ability to at some point understand and appreciate. You, friends, are on your own.
No, I am not ready to chuck it in. For all the frustrations, disappointments, and real and perceived dangers of sticking around, I still consider the prospect of quitting, or being fired for non-performance, disconcerting and genuinely off-putting. As long as I can, thank you very much, I’m going to continue to stick around frustrating the snot out of people. [A much more colorful and eminently more meaningful phrase just got edited-out. Your loss.]
Life runs in cycles we don’t even recognize, let alone understand. Looking back over those sixty years, recalling individual happenings involving my old friend and me, sometimes together, sometimes separately, I’m impressed we didn’t then grant those events the importance they legitimately deserved.
Yes, kiddies, I read your “poems” [you are granted that categorization though in my opinion you need to work real hard to make the crap you consider “poetic” by any definition meaningful and worthy of being considered “poetry”] about your lost loves, broken hearts, and feeling that life for the disappointments it gives you holds no more charm, and is not to be coveted. We, my friend and I, put up with the same stuff [another horrendous redaction] and we got through it. I’d suggest you will too, but you’d consider that insane.
Let me further torque your jaws [oh! to not feel obligated to redact!] by suggesting that as it was for my friend and me, and all our other friends then, those hurts that wouldn’t go away, that bleeding we thought would never stop, did. Later hurt and bleeding made that before it, childish. Not unimportant; childish. And that happened constantly. Bitter became bittersweet and subsequently was forgotten. At least relegated to a musty old file-cabinet drawer of shadowy memories.
Then, wonder of wonders, years slipped by. We watched and worried for the youth around us, feeling their pains but unable to offer cures or even anesthesia. More wonder. They too, healed. Scarred? Yes, but of course. But not forever depressed, and thankfully never considering prematurely quitting. Now, if my friend were here, he and I would call-up those shared memories and relive them, feel again the pain, differently and with wisdom and appreciation. Perhaps we’d reveal to each other similar events we’d not shared before.
Pulling shadows of the past from that musty file cabinet, we’d see what hurt us terribly as youth, became insignificant. Then much later, revisited in altogether new and much less terrible, but still terrible ways. Given a magic wand, an ability to move any direction in time, would we? Yes, probably. To be as strong as we once were. To be as handsome as we once were. To see old friends, again young and beautiful and handsome and strong as then, again. Those who broke our hearts, whose hearts we broke. To once again run the risk of breaking hearts, of feeling our own hearts barely able to beat for being crushed.
Or. Now looking back at yet another loss, to just see an old friend smile face-to-face.