Monday, June 8, 2015

27 Years and Counting

I've seen a lot of articles, particularly today, as it's Best Friends Day, about making and keeping friends. There are any number of studies about how having friends lengthens and enriches one's life.

It can be hard to make friends, particularly as you age. You find, that as you go through life, the circles of people you wander into and out of are not all your same age. When everyone in group chat in my World of Warcraft guild is young enough to be my child, it's tough to relate to them as friends. The first time someone asked me if I remembered seeing news footage of Vietnam on TV, I was kind of taken aback. I do remember that. They only knew it from history books or the movies. So, when you find someone who is a friend, you hang onto them.

We "met", her and I, because I was editing a railroad historical publication and she wrote an article about how the town she was living in at the time, preserved and reused their railroad depot, long after the railroad ceased running through town. I enjoyed reading something written by a woman who obviously knew her way around the English language. I was used to men picking up a piece of paper and writing anything down that came to their mind, then getting roasted because I put the memories into some semblance of order and they felt affronted someone would dare to edit them. She had a couple of boys in school. I had a daughter. Our first letters, after publication of the article, were about language. She worked in a newspaper. I did freelance proofreading and was a room mom. That was twenty-seven years ago.

You know a friend is going to be a friend when something just clicks. We've been through weddings, births and deaths. We've been through divorces and adoptions and moving and job changes. We went through the rise of computer correspondence. When we started writing, we either wrote our letters long-hand or typed them on a typewriter. The computer made it easier to write letters, although I really need to replace my printer so I'm not printing my letters at work. We still send each other long letters detailing the ups and downs of life.

The funny thing is, we had never met. We were pen pals of the best sort. We lived "close", in that it didn't take an airplane ride to get to each other. Her husband had a sister who lived in Gary, Indiana, until she passed away a couple years ago. They couldn't stop on the way to or from the funeral. It was the closest to each other we had ever been. Three years ago, I was going to drive to her current home in Faribault, Minnesota, but finances, at the last minute, didn't permit it. It was always in the back of my mind that I had to get out there, I just had to.

Finally, over Memorial Day, I made it. Heavy rains could not stop me. I saved for this event and I drove to Faribault. Finally, I met Patt.

It wasn't like meeting someone new. We sat on the porch, in the 3 season room I'd heard so much about, and talked and talked, just like we did in our letters. We know everything about each other. We know our dreams. We know our hopes for our kids and for ourselves. She is the warm, wonderful woman I know from 27 years of letters. I don't always sleep real well the first night in a different bed than my own but I slept soundly all three nights I was there. It was a real sleep of peace.

I got the tour of Faribault and Northfield. Patt made wonderful suppers and I saw "Frozen" for the first time. We also watched "Still Alice" and "Saving Mr. Banks". We talked. I did cross-stitching. I had one of the most peaceful vacations I've had in awhile. We didn't have an agenda. We didn't need one. It was two friends, who have known each other going on 3 decades, just being in each other's presence. Three decades. That's a very long time.

Sometimes there are days when I wish I had more friends close to my age close to my house. I tend to be a private person and it can be hard to open up to the extent that allows a friendship to form. When you do that, you risk rejection and, let's face it, being rejected for who you are or aren't is painful. Then I realize I have someone in my life who knows me and likes me, warts and all. We didn't need to meet. We'd still be friends even if I hadn't come up to see her. But my life is so much more enriched having spent time with Patt.

I hope, when you're my age, you, too have someone who has been there for 27 years and counting. Here's to 27+ more.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


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