You won’t know anyone I am writing about in this post so I will use initials instead of full names because I have none of this planned out not that it would matter anyway.
I got the news today that a friend from high school, J, died this week. J was just a little younger than me, graduating the year after I did, and she died Wednesday from COVID-19. I know nothing else about her health or the question we all wonder when someone we knows dies of COVID, vaccinated or not?
I last saw and spoke to J at the Burger King in our hometown where we had met for lunch either there or the Mexican restaurant next door and I believe it was not long before 9/11/2001. Aside from a couple of Facebook messages over the last twenty years, that was it.
What I remember from high school was the little red Civic she drove and that I was over at her house one day when she gave me a small pocket knife that her father’s company gave away as freebies which I ended up carrying all through college and I believe is still in a tote in the attic.
She was a good friend, someone who would listen and give advice and I’m sure we had many conversations about all of the ups and downs of high school life that are all tangled up with other memories in my mind now.
The most vivid memory I have of J is going to her house right before Christmas in 1990. I remember it being painfully cold and I can remember the Christmas tree lit up in the living room in the front window of the house. I am not sure how I ended up there or why – another memory lost in the jumble.
But that night sticks out in my mind because when I was leaving, I got distracted and backed off of the side of the driveway into the ditch and knocked down the mailbox. The old Cavalier I had was stuck so a tow truck had to come get me out and that’s where the cold came in. It was quite cold out there waiting for it and trying to come up with something to tell the police officer that had just happened to drive by also.
I played this off as a goof, mirrors were wrong, etc. so I did not get a ticket, just embarrassment but the truth was that my friend S, who had passed away just a few months before, had lived almost right across the street and I got distracted looking at her house in the rear view mirror, the pain of that loss still very fresh at the time. And that is something I have never revealed to anyone until now.
Life moves on. People lose touch. One year becomes twenty. There always seems to be more time to catch up.
When I went to college, I cut a lot of people off because I felt the only thing to do to leave high school and the loss of S behind was to leave most of the people behind also.
It was easy to disappear in the days before Facebook. In hindsight, it was not the right thing to do. I ruined a lot of friendships. Today there are therapists and medications. Back then, not much of either. You toughed it out. You moved on the best you could. You tore it all down because you had no idea what else to do.
J ended up coming to college where I was and we reconnected for a while but it was not the same – my fault, not hers. My walls were up and stayed up for a very long time. She moved away, married, had kids, got separated. We saw each other’s lives only in a stream of Facebook posts.
Regrets, I have a few (possibly, more than a few!) and here and only here I will share them.
Since we met in high school band many years ago, I’ll end this with a song from back when J’s little red Civic was still going strong and the roads were wide open and ready to take us anywhere.