Last week, I spoke with an old college friend of mine. He’s my age — mid-50s — and a professional with an impressive résumé. I hadn’t heard from him in over three years. He, his wife, and I were college friends in the early 1980s. His career has taken him all over the world. He’s lived in Canada, China, England, Delaware, Philadelphia, and Texas, and currently lives in Arkansas. I lost his cellphone number, so I reached out to him on social media (I guess it’s good for something). As soon as I sent the message, I received a text from him. I wasn’t home at the time, so I called him an hour later.
I had reached out to my friend three years ago after losing contact for seven or eight years. I had been close to him and his late wife, who he began dating in college. But over time, “life” has a way of creating distance between people. His wife passed away a few days before our reconnecting. I was in shock at the news; my mind went completely blank. The three of us were the same age, and her passing as a result of a serious health condition put things in perspective for me. I didn’t think about the seriousness of my pulmonary sarcoidosis. I thought about my wife, my children, and our extended families. How would my family cope if they lost me? On the phone with him, I didn’t know what to say.
However, I pulled myself together. I expressed my sadness at the loss of his wife and we reminisced about our college days. We laughed and joked like we always had. The conversation was initially uncomfortable, but then the memories took over, and it was like we were on campus again.
Fast forward 3 years
Our recent catch-up didn’t miss a beat. I talked about my current situation living with a disability and my daily “adventures” with pulmonary sarcoidosis. I told him that for the past two summers, I’d been hospitalized, unable to enjoy the outdoors. Throughout the conversation, he repeated, “Wow!” He told me that he was at a loss for words. We both had suffered significant losses that were personal and overwhelming.
I could tell that he hadn’t expected this type of news from me, but I think he grasped the seriousness of it. I’ve always been the clown and practical joker with my friends, but I think this happening to me soon after the loss of his wife hit close to home. As we continued to talk, we filled in the blanks of our respective families. His daughter remains in Texas, while my daughter has transferred to a college closer to home. His son is attending a local university, mine has finished his photography certification and is working as a freelancer. It was cathartic for us to talk at these crossroads in our lives.
Coming full circle
As we continued our more than hourlong conversation, we caught up on news of our mutual friends and some of the “life issues” they’re facing. Regardless of the obstacles we experience in life, “living” doesn’t stop. My friend has slowly moved on with his life. He has a companion who he’s been dating for about two years, and I’m approaching my first summer of being “hospital-free.” He still misses his wife dearly and thinks about her every day. We’re continuing to adjust to our “new” lives, but we’re reassured to know that we can fall back on each other, even if it’s just for a good laugh about the “old days.” We’re thankful for each day, which we see as a new adventure.
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