I ran into her at an in-service, and we hugged and chatted happily about our kids and all that was going on in our lives. She was still as beautiful and as vivacious that day as she was thirty years ago in high school. She was several years behind me in high school, and because our high school was so small it was fairly easy to know almost everyone that you passed in the halls.
As we were laughing about a story the principal of the particular building walked by. She looked at us and laughed, “My goodness, Vodka, do you know EVERYONE in this school district?”
“You’re not gonna believe this,” my friend Jeannie said, “but we were friends in high school!”
“We were practically best friends!” I added with a laugh.
After a few pleasantries the principal walked away and Jeannie turned and looked at me. “Best friends? I’m pretty sure you hated me! Especially after that time you saw me talking to Tightwad!”
“Yeah, well, if I had known then…” and then I shooed that particular thought away. “It’s funny how blind we are when we’re young, isn’t it?”
I’ve been thinking about that conversation, and about how the memories of our youth and those who inhabited it change and become smoother and more beautiful over the years. Those memories are kind of like sea glass rolling around the ocean. They enter the turbulent waters and swirl, turn and crash against one obstacle or another. And then, after they are sufficiently beaten up by the sands of time, they are carried gently to shore looking remarkably smooth and beautiful.
We lost an old high school friend yesterday, and I was painfully thrust back in time. He was a talented wrestler and a quiet, sweet boy who was always smiling. He was the boy I went to the 8th grade dance with, and might have been the first one to hold my hand. He married, after high school, an equally sweet girl who coincidently was also always smiling and laughing. She was a majorette with the band, and managed to make that uniform look good. (Which ain't easy with those crazy boots.) According to all of those who knew them they were just as much in love today as they were over 35 years ago when they married. They were vacationing at the beach when he suffered a massive heart attack.
While I’m familiar with losing a father in this manner, I can’t quite wrap my heart around the fact that this lovely woman (who I still picture as a 16 year-old majorette...) has suffered the same heartache and tragedy as my mother. I weep for her and her family, and pray that the road ahead is tempered with love and support.
While I can’t decide what the beginning and middle of this story have to do with each other, I sure know what the ending is.
We may begin our journey from youth to adulthood in a sea of varying emotion; excitement, anticipation, friendship, jealously, anger, frustration, hope and love. But we all seem to come together when we realize how very fragile and short this life really is.
I see Jeannie, Elaine, Sharon, Betsy, Donna, Annette, Eva, Tami, and so many other faces of my youth and the only thing my heart remembers is happiness; that innocent, wonderful, incredible happiness that can only be found in the fleeting moments of youth. And then that happiness is jolted with the stark reality of death.
May you rest in peace, Jim.