Biff America: A postal mourning morning
In 1976, Joanie Kent was one of the prettiest gals in town. She was also smart, funny and tough.
Not to brag but I was no slouch back then either. I owned an assortment of embroidered blue jeans and a sizable collection of turquoise jewelry and Mexican serapes. And if that wasn’t enough, many said I bore a strong resemblance to Eddie Haskell.
Despite those attributes, Joanie Kent was one of a long list of gals who I never dated.
I can’t even say that we ever were good friends but rather two people who came to town as ski bums and have made lives 2 miles above sea level. The years have been kind to Joanie. Perhaps that is because, unlike me, she raised a family and ran a business, which allowed her less time in the bars and alpine sun than I. If I was asked her phone number or even where she lived, I would not know, but when we encounter each other, perhaps several times a year, we stop and catch up.
Often when you meet an old friend after having not seen them in years, the change is dramatic. In contrast, when you bump into folks, regularly over time, the variations are more subtle. With them, your vision is mixed with your memory. When I see Joanie, and many other old friends now, I see them both as they are and as they were and I can only hope they do me the same courtesy.
It’s amazing how much junk mail accumulates in your post office box when you leave town for a month. I was sorting flyers from AARP, political ads and promotions from “Magnum, ED herbal supplements,” and “Hair Club For Men” when Joanie walked past. I looked up from my pile of mail and our eyes met. No words were spoken, no words were needed. In one glance there was sadness, shock and fear. She went about her business as did I, and we stopped to talk outside the building.
The news came out that morning of the sudden death of Steve, a long time local — a husband, father and, at one time, a good friend of mine. In the week prior, the town also lost Jenney and Kathy, two amazing women who died way too soon. And that came on the heels of Jon, Brett and John — three active and healthy guys — having near-death health issues. It seemed you would finally come to terms with one catastrophe and another would occur.
“There but for the grace of God go I.”
At this point in time, I could probably count the number of my really close friends on one hand. That happens as you age and your lifestyle and interests change. Steve, Kathy and Joanie raised families and were involved in all that entails. So perhaps their paths had crossed more than those of us without kids. The years, different interests and lifestyles can come between even good friends. I have many former pals, who I care deeply about — I have simply lost touch with them though we live only miles apart.
Friendships come easily when you are young. When many of us arrived in the mountains we were single, broke and open for suggestions. Bonds were made at low-paying jobs and bars that served cheap drinks. Though dating was often akin to musical chairs, (it was said that you didn’t lose your girlfriend, you lost your turn), it seemed that even those whom you loved but lost, after a bit of grieving, remained friends.
But as we all got older, worked more, drank less, got married and, for some, had children, our priorities changed as did the number of our close acquaintances. But I can say this with conviction, it is very possible to still love someone you see a few times a year simply because of a shared love and joy of decades past.
The look of sadness, shock and fear that Joanie and I gave each other was one that was shared all over town. Sadness — that those three active, otherwise healthy friends, in a matter of weeks, had left us. Shock — that it happened so quickly. Fear — that we could be next.
My month’s worth of mail produced only a handful of offerings worth taking home; the rest went into recycling. Despite the lingering aforementioned sense of grief, shock and fear, I forced myself to join my mate for a sunset bike ride. The sky turned red and the breeze chilled us as we stopped to enjoy the sky. Ellie said, “They are up their now looking down.” And I nodded through tears.
Of course that assertion is as much hope as conviction, but it did make me feel better. Because mixed with those feelings of grief, shock and fear was also a huge dose of gratitude……………..
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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