And the road goes on forever...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Old Friends

Sometimes at random moments my thoughts turn to things totally unrelated to what I am engaged in. Today as I was cleaning, something spurred me to think of good friends from the past who have left my life.

It gave me pause to think “what has happened to them?” This person that I was so close to at one point in time, and over years and miles, we finally saw a friendship sputter and go out like a dim gas lantern running out of fuel. I thought about one such person today.

Her name was Sally and she was originally from Connecticut and had come out west as a result of a bad marriage, which ended leaving her in northern California. Through pride or a genuine liking of her newly adopted state, I don’t know which, she chose to stay, and she found another husband and had a son. When I first met her I was working as a Realtor sitting a subdivision and she was sent out to be my weekend hostess to help with the traffic flow. In other words, distract and direct the chafe while I, as the licensed agent, zeroed in on the wheat to consummate a sale. Our first meeting was awkward—she was painfully shy and soft spoken whereas my industry had taught me to be forthright, brash, and assertive. I didn’t think the first day we would really mesh at all.

But Sally managed to get under my skin; she was just so likeable and soft-spoken—who could possibly resent that? Long hours when no potential clients were around saw us sharing confidences and histories and we actually found quite a bit in common. Over the course of a year, she left her then husband and filed for divorce and moved into the apartment complex where I also lived. Our friendship deepened over shared dinners and laments about men as Sally pursued getting her real estate license.

Continuing on, I met and married Marc and she, being a Master Gardener and all-knowing about flowers, did all my wedding flowers at a wholesale price. She was there as I married Marc but by then our job roles had changed. She had been my relief agent on my days off when I was promoted and made district Sales Manager for the entire northern California division so suddenly had all my former workmates and agents under me--including Sally, whom I handed off my very lucrative subdivision to. She proved to be excellent although a large part of her success was due to the market at the time. She remained a little too soft-spoken to really have a “hit it” killer sales attitude that could have been necessary for success had the market been bad.
Sally remarried and soon enough Marc and I decided California and the frenetic corporate pace was no longer for us so we moved to Central Oregon. We kept in touch and when a few opportunities for travel arose that I could get back to California I would stop in and stay overnight with her new family. 

I remember the last time I did that with her. There were problems occurring in the marriage despite its newness. I left thinking our friendship would continue as always but in actuality, I only heard from her about once or twice more. It was letters or phone calls in those days; there was no internet. Finally when I didn’t hear from her anymore I asked another agent we both knew what had happened to Sally. She had divorced the third husband, they had sold the new home, and she and her son had returned to Connecticut. She left no forwarding address. She had let her real estate license go and had gotten a degree in Library Science. Ah yes, how appropriate for her demeanor—always soft-spoken and shy. 

So, on this day in the desert of Arizona 20 years later, I paused to think of Sally, to wonder if she finally found happiness with a man; if she gained more by returning to her native turf; if she was successful at becoming a librarian and loved her job. Has she retired by now? I imagine the green fields and trees of Connecticut, although I’ve never been there, and wonder how she might have aged, or even if she is still alive and well. Does she ever pause to think of her old friends; of me? I know she had my wedding and flower photos; does she pull them out and look at them sometimes, did she keep them? What happened to her life that I missed out on? 

Sometimes I wonder about these old friends, once so close they shared all our confidences. How does life just manage to toss them aside and be done with them? I have no doubt that if we could see one another today, we’d take up right where we left off—but alas, that will never be. Some friends are only destined to touch our lives briefly. I hope you are well, Sally-that-I-will-never-see-again, because it gave me joy to think about you on this day and how once upon a time we were such good friends.