A Delightful Blast from the Past

In Touch after 48 Years

A Blast from the Past

I’ve been down in the dumps for some time — not about everything, just about one big topic. My world has grown smaller or at least, the number of people I hold dear has grown fewer.

I’m not talking about the passage-of-time fewer people, the deaths and the distance that occur as we age. That sadly is to be expected.

No, instead I’m talking about the people we have grown apart from either by choice (theirs or ours) or simply because “oh, that friendship was from another time or place.”

This too is a normal part of life but still, this list of “What ever happened to …?” people has not only grown in recent years but more recently, has assumed somewhat of an oversized importance in my mind. “Whatever did happen to so and so?” “Why did we lose touch?” “I wonder how they are.” With no satisfactory answers to these questions, I have felt a new sense of loss and even regret.

Now, I for one, moved a lot growing up and in my early professional years, more than most do. So, that explains, in part, why I lost contact with a fair number of nice-but-not-besties in my life. You know the people I mean … the next-door neighbor who, one Christmas, showed up at our door dressed as Santa Claus to the delight of our two small children. Or the pharmacist who was so caring and charming that we eventually became friendly enough to grab an occasional cup of coffee. She had four great kids but a not-so-great boyfriend. How is she doing? And what about that colleague I used to regularly vent with about our crazy boss? He was so witty and fun. Why don’t we periodically exchange “Hi. How’s life?” emails?

Mostly I wonder about all the young people that came and went through the years. The friends of our children — the classmates, the best friends, the kids who struggled, even the bullies. How are they navigating life as young adults? My own children don’t seem to think about their wider circle of early classmates. Why do I find myself typing names into the Facebook search box?

I also think about the young people I mentored along the way either informally or as a volunteer through formal mentorship programs. I thought a few of those relationships might stick but to my surprise and sadness that hasn’t happened.

At least it hadn’t happened until just the other day when I woke up to an email with the subject line:

Remember Me?

I read the name of the person who sent it and right away, memories — delightful memories — came rushing back of Danny P.

In my mind, I pictured a gawky shy little boy, no more than 11 years old. I met him when I was 18-ish, working as an aide at a Las Vegas summer parks and recreation program. Out of a swarm of kids, he stood out. We bonded and that summer, I became a cross between a big sister and a mentor. Even after the rec program ended, we’d go bowling, to the library, and to museums.

My parents liked Danny too and welcomed him into our family life. He came over for dinners and to swim. My father took him to sporting events including Jai alai, then a big deal at the old MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

And, in turn, I spent time with Danny’s big boisterous family. Over there, chaos happily reigned; people running in and out; noise everywhere. It was fun.

For me, Danny was like the little brother I never had. He was, in fact, closer to my age than my oldest siblings — 18 and 21 years older. And since my brothers were grown up and out of the house most of my life, being around Danny’s sprawling family was also a special treat.

Even after I returned to college in New York, I stayed in touch for a time … and then I didn’t. I don’t recall why.

But through the years, I’ve thought of Danny and his family and hoped he/they were doing well. I even looked on Facebook, but the search was fruitless.

Anyway, fond memories, ones consigned to that wistful — and growing — category of “I wonder what happened to …?”

Memories that is until Danny’s message hit my inbox.

After forty-eight years, my friend re-entered my life. Danny told me how much my friendship — and the friendship of my family — meant to him, and that he thought of me often through the years. He told me of his work life, and his happy marriage, and ended his email with the hope that we meet the next time I’m in Southern California where he and his wife now live.

It was an It’s a Wonderful Life-George Bailey moment. A connection made long ago had mattered.  Still resonated. Not just for me, but for another person.

Danny’s message didn’t just make my day. It reaffirmed my life at a time when honestly, I needed it. Old friendships matter even when they are not maintained, and sometimes unexpectedly, they are renewed.

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