Old friends, bookends

A postcard out of the blue arrived the other day from an old friend who was touring Greece.  menage.jpgOn the front, a photograph of ancient Greek erotica on pottery and on the back, the words she wrote:  Greetings! We thought you would appreciate this card – cracked us up!

I met her husband first, when we both worked at the same hospital in the late 70’s.  When Jim met Diane and he introduced me to her as his fiance,  she and I fell instantly in love.  Not in the sense that lovers fall in love, but in the way two women can fall in love each other’s souls.   She was the tall one, I was the short one.  She was the stable, fertile goddess, I was was the unattached and childless free spirit.  Their house was the scene of so many wonderful gatherings of friends because that’s the kind of people they are – the kind that welcome you as a member of their family.  I spent so much time in Diane’s kitchen – drinking coffee on Sunday mornings, or mixing drinks on Saturday nights – there were times I seriously wondered if they wished they could just tell me to go the hell home.  On one very memorable night, Diane and I danced together with a total lack of self-consciousness and ease that I’ve rarely felt dancing with a man – her laugh ringing through the air and her wild hair tossing about.  Her favorite song was “Boys of Summer” and to this day I cannot hear that song without thinking of her.  They were, for me, a link to the family life I didn’t have in Texas.  They were my adopted brother and sister and their 3 children became like neice & nephews to me.  I was, in fact, called Aunt Karen by the children, which touched me enormously. 

Our lives were entertwined for about 10 years, until we both moved our families away from Austin at about the same time in 1991 – me to Kansas City, she to upstate Washington – and our contact became sporadic, as often happens when geographical distance interferes.  Monthly phone calls became yearly calls, then eventually stopped.  I went through a very distressful and difficult divorce from Julian’s dad and closeted myself away from civilization for a long time.  Diane sent me letters I did not answer with any regularity.  One letter to her from me went missing the mail (where DOES that stuff end up?).  I would email occasionally, but Diane is not a computer person so I never heard back from her.  In the meantime, I felt terrible, knowing I wasn’t actually trying to put forth the effort to stay in touch and the longer it went on, the worse I felt.  It got to the point where I was actually afraid if I called, she wouldn’t really want to hear from me.  I missed her terribly but felt like I’d been a bad friend.

Then the postcard from Greece came last week and I made a mental committment to get in touch with her as soon as possible.  Today was the 21st, their card was postmarked the 11th.   Surely they were back in the states by now.   Today was the day to make the phone call. 

“I’m going to call Diane tonight” I said to Ken
“You should” he said
“I’m afraid. What if she hates me?”
“She doesn’t hate you.  Just call.”

And I did.  And it was wonderful.  It was like we’d just seen each other the day before, even though it’s now been 16 years since we last laid eyes on each other.  It was a phone call that I was long overdue in making, and one that, again, proves the power of true friendship.  True friends love you in spite of your flaws and quirks, and forgive you your temporary lapses in attention.  True friends think of you when they see that certain nasty postcard they just know you’ll love.  True friendship never dies and I am thankful for that today.

Cheers, Di.  I’m looking forward to dancing with you next year at your son’s wedding.  Maybe they’ll play Boys of Summer, just for us.


11 Responses to “Old friends, bookends”

  1. 1 poseidonsmuse July 21, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you Observant. The honesty of your post was very touching (a difficult topic to discuss too!). I am very happy that you were able to drum up the courage to call your friend. Now you know that your connection has (and always will be) strong and true. That is a great feeling to have when you know that although life (time, distance, circumstances) may separate your paths for a time, you can still connect with that special person.

    As for myself, I have probably “lost” people in my life(in the past), because I assumed that they were just disinterested, or became disambiguated with the friendship/connection (assumptions are terrible…by the way). I tended to just let some people “go” for these reasons. Now, I find myself paying closer attention to the people in my life – taking inventory so to speak. I try to take stock of relationships dynamics and assess the meaning of the friendship – for both parties.

    I find that I am not so quick to dismiss people anymore (but I will let them go if they need to “move on” too – no matter how painful…if that is best for everyone, including myself). I also understand that people are different in how they approach relationships (everyone needs/wants or is willing to give something different to the friendship). I try not to take “things” personally anymore (because everyone’s perception of reality is so different from one another). It is often better to listen with an open heart and mind and respond with compassion and understanding.

    Tough stuff to deal with, but “stuff” nonetheless!

    Hugs to you!

  2. 2 observantbystander July 21, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Muse, how right you are. It’s difficult to know what people are thinking at times, and it seems easier to dismiss friendships by assuming people couldn’t possibly be THAT interested in maintaining a relationship with me, of all people. The older I get, the more it becomes apparent that the few really close friendships I forged in my twenties (and even as far back as my teens) are the ones most likely to be maintained for life. The potential loss of this particular friendship weighed heavily on me for a long, long time. I’m glad I made the plunge, in spite of my anxiety. It was well worth it.

  3. 3 V- July 22, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Chances are Diane was sitting around thinking “Maybe Karen hates me” Aren’t we silly. Thanks for this story. I’m so glad you reconnected with your dear friend.
    And that postcard Rocks!

  4. 4 observantbystander July 22, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    It’s not the exact postcard, but as close as I could find via the internet. I would have scanned the actual thing, but alas, I don’t have a scanner.

  5. 5 Simonne July 23, 2007 at 7:35 am

    Wow, I resonate with this so much at the moment that it’s sort of weird! The exact same thing has just happened to me! One of the best friends I’ve ever had, a girl called Sam I went through Uni with has just come back into my life after a very long absence. It was the same thing – we drifted apart and then they moved and I thought about her and felt bad for so many years. But the friendship we shared was the closest I’ve ever really had with anyone and I missed her so much. I tracked her down a few weeks ago and we’ve been in touch on the phone since and it’s so great. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story OB. Sx

  6. 6 karen July 23, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Simonne: Isn’t that a great feeling? I’m so happy for you! It’s important to keep up friendships and it’s so easy to let them lapse. Rock on, girl.

  7. 7 writerchick July 23, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Hey Karen,
    I loved that story. I have dear friends who have moved away too and it’s so easy to lose touch or to think that the friendship has just ceased to exist after a while. Then you connect up again and like you said, it’s as if you were never apart. I’m so happy for you and that you’ve found your best friend again. That’s really wonderful.

  8. 8 observantbystander July 23, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    WC – Thanks. It’s a real good feeling to stick your foot out and trip an old friend! It’s one I really didn’t want to let go of forever.

  9. 9 Deb July 24, 2007 at 5:20 am

    This was a really cool post. I was taking stock this weekend, and was sort of shocked to realize that I have no friends that I’m still in contact with from some key points in my life. I have essentially 3 friends who I know will stick for the long haul, despite my many moves. Maybe I shouldn’t give completely up on some of the good friends I’ve lost along the way, though. Maybe they’ll make surprise reappearances as well.

  10. 10 observantbystander July 24, 2007 at 5:52 am

    My cousin Venus tells me that the planet Venus is about to retrograde. This is supposed to be a good time to connect with old acquaintances. You never know.

  11. 11 warrior August 7, 2007 at 1:43 am

    Wow so happy you finally did…thank you , thanks for your writing too, it’s wonderful

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