Sometimes, life gets in the way of things. Keeping up with friends is one of those things that life seems to interrupt. You can’t help it really; you can sorta kinda do it with the massive influx of social media which makes it both easier and harder to keep up with folks. Easier, because they’re right there. Harder, because everyone you’ve ever met in your entire fucking life is right there.
So, you can reconnect with people you haven’t seen in years. Old friends, old loves and sometimes, people you wrote off for various reasons that you fondly reminisce with for a while only to realize why you stopped speaking with them in the first place. It’s a grand time. It’s a grand amount of time, too.
Almost exactly a year ago, I reconnected with someone I was genuinely happy to hear from; one of the 11 people I graduated from grade school with showed up on the often unreliable “Do You Know?” list of mugs. (Usually, from what I’ve seen, it usually consists of ex girlfriends and people you went to school with that you totally fucking despise.) But, this was different. We weren’t awfully tight friend wise and honestly hadn’t spoken in over 20 plus years, but as our class was so small, I knew her and she knew me. We corresponded back and forth and had agreed the next time I was in NJ, we’d meet up for some quick coffee and hang out a bit.
Of course, life getting in the way, it would be a year before I made it back to New Jersey. I drove around my hometown in Boonton, and drove past the house where she grew up. I thought, “I should write on her FB page and see if we can meet up for a little while” but, I shot it down as I was on a schedule. I did, however, promise myself that’d I’d shoot an email when I got back home and tell her I was in the old neighborhood and would be back soon.
I drove back home on a Monday, exhausted and went almost instantly to sleep.
The next day, I saw her obituary posted online.
She had died that Sunday.
I was and still am a little shaken up by her passing. Not because we were such good friends or that we had bonded over anything other than being in the same grade school from Kindergarten through high school for a while. It was that someone my age (her birthday had been a month ago) that I knew had just suddenly died. It’s different when it’s an old family member or even any family member. But an old friend? Something I had never given a thought about until this point.
I was going to try to go to the wake or the funeral, but there wasn’t enough time to arrange things on my end. Maybe that is a cop out, maybe it isn’t. I wanted more than anything to just crawl in my head and try to make some sense out of it. Usually, the thoughts of your own mortality stem from some personal tragedy that gets you to think about it, but on the list of medical maladies I have, this is the first time my own mortality became something real. But, it still isn’t real because it’s not my mortality I was thinking about, it was Barbara’s.
Barbara was a very quiet girl when I knew her and a very witty person to correspond with later on in life. She was quick to smile and had (as a little girl) the best “I’m so disgusted with you” glare I’ve ever seen. In a class of 12, and only 5 girls, there were lots of opportunities to see that look. (Pam’s look was truly terrifying. Katherine’s look was equally shame-inducing.)
I’m going to have to make a pilgrimage soon though, this I do know. It’s a very unsettling feeling that lurks around after hearing about her passing that I just can’t quite put my finger on and that isn’t something I usually encounter. It’s not about closure or anything like that at all, but it did really slam something into focus for me and that is to not wait. You want to send an email to an old friend but you start second guessing it? Just send it. You’ll either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, but send it. Call that person you haven’t talked to in ages. You don’t need a reason to do it either. Just do it. We do not live in a consequence free environment and we never have, but the actual consequences may not be an awful thing. The worst thing that could happen is someone tells you to fuck off. Or they don’t even respond to you in any way. Hurts to be sure, but you haven’t lost anything really.
Until you lose the chance to say anything at all.