Monday, February 23, 2015

Memories of an old friend

An obituary in yesterday's paper alerted me to the death of an old friend, a man I hadn't seen in years and years, and it brought back some happy memories and some musings on life. The man's wife, S., was and is a good friend of mine for over forty years. Young, with infant children, we all hung out together a lot--we were neighbors in a small, upscale neighborhood (hey, I was married to a doctor), and we were involved in liberal causes. We partied. We had great lives.
But things change. Joel and I divorced and then a few years later so did S. and her husband--though they later remarried briefly and then finally terminated their relationship. S. worked at TCU as I did, but many years ago she moved to NYC to be near most of her children. We've kept in sporadic contact, had rare visits, but I think we both knew in the back of our minds that we were old friends with deep roots. I've emailed her since her ex's death and had warm replies.
I got to thinking about the two of us today, and the similarities struck me with force. Not just that we lived in the same neighborhood and worked at TCU. We were both married to men who, each in his own way was larger than life and lived outside what would be called the norms of society. I can't truly speak for her, but I suspect I know that when their marriage was good, it was very good. I know I have happy memories of my own life at that time. Four children, the happy domestic life. In a lot of ways I loved it; sometimes I chafed against it.
My ex and hers both were an enormous part of our lives and left indelible impressions, things that shaped us for the rest of our lives. But we each went on to build satisfying lives for ourselves--she as an artist and me as a writer. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say those men gave us the strength to do that--I'd like to believe it came from our inner selves. But whatever, we did forge ahead, and we're both happy campers, close to our children, pleased with our lives. The parallels interest me.
S. wrote that she hoped she would now be free, and I wanted to tell her no, she'll never be free. My ex is still in my thoughts--and sometimes my dreams--a lot. Oh, yes, there were other men--some good, some disappointing--but none had the same impact on my life. I still don't know whether to damn him or thank him--but I think it's the latter.
Here's to the good old days, to all those golden memories softened by time. And to long-lasting friendships.

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