Earlier this week, Facebook let me know that it was the birthday of a colleague from my TV post-production days in the 70s. When I went to her page, I saw her brother’s name there and was reminded that he and I had communicated for a while some years ago. Apart from the TV world connection, we had both grown up in New York and gone to the same high school, though not at the same time. I was five years ahead of him, which meant something back then. 

So I moved on to his Facebook page, scrolling through his various jobs and places he’s lived. The profile photo was clearly an older one, but he looked like someone I’d like to know. Our acquaintance back in the old days was limited to parties and when he’d come by after work to get his sister. To be honest, other than his name, I really didn’t remember him.

There are people like that, people I know I knew but can’t picture at all. Then there are the ones I don’t even know I knew, though I totally believe that I did. I’ve never had a good memory and it’s certainly not improving with age. I rely on my oldest friend for pieces of my history, and there’s an old boyfriend who I’m sure remembers way more than I would like. So it’s reassuring to know that there are people who hold pieces of my past.

I kept scrolling through an impressive list of jobs and places lived. Hollywood, Paris, Boston. Then it said, Hennepin County. Minneapolis. I felt like the universe was giving me a present. There’s someone in this city in which I am a stranger with whom I share a professional background and my home city and even my high school. Is he married, single, gay, straight? It doesn’t matter, though single and straight could have their advantages (also, disadvantages). I went to Messenger and found our back and forth from 2009. It had petered out, as these Facebook conversations often do, but I felt perfectly comfortable writing him a short note saying how pleased and surprised I am that we’ve both landed here in Minneapolis. 

After I hit “Send,” I had the strangest feeling, like my note was tied to a stone that had just sailed out into the void of deep space. Even on social media, one gets vibes and I definitely got the absent vibe. It didn’t look like he’d posted anything since March and, looking more closely at his sister’s page, she looked pretty absent too.

I googled him. He’d had a couple of exquisite photographs of the lake I now walk a few times a week published on a local church’s website. Maybe I could find him through the church. The more I thought about our shared background and interests (after perusing his page a little more, crows were added to the list), the more excited I got about our getting together. When we move to a new place, especially when one is older and no longer working in one’s field, we’re a blank slate to those we meet. It would feel so good to spend time with someone who knew me when. 

Then, yesterday, I dug a little deeper on his Facebook page. That old profile picture had comments attached to it. Comments like, “You taught me so much,” and, “You lived an amazing life,” and, “You will be missed.” The reason he hadn’t posted since March suddenly became clear. The old profile picture was there as a form of a tribute.

I felt stunned when I realized he’s gone. He had been coming so vividly alive to me through his photographs and his posts. I could see us walking our shared lake and talking about our shared interests. I know that those who actually knew him miss the man he was and that my loss pales beside theirs. But the loss of possibility is a poignant reminder of the losses we are all facing, especially as we age. I have too many conversations with my peers that include reports of sick siblings or spouses or friends, or their own medical challenges.

It is frightening to venture out into hope at this age, but without hope, the world is a very dark and lonely place indeed. Yesterday, it was 7 degrees when I walked the lake I had looked forward to sharing with a new old friend. The cold wasn’t as chilling as the sadness I felt for the loss of that friend. But I keep walking. And hoping.

11 Comments

  1. Ruth, I’m so sorry for your loss. Loss of a renewed friendship that could have been. I had a similar almost reconnection prior to my 50 year high school reunion, just before the pandemic. Marcus Marutani sat next to me in homeroom for three years; he was quiet and studious and witty, and also school president and a karate expert (he broke through at least ten blocks of wood with his bare hand onstage as part of his run for school president!). We weren’t friends outside of school, but always liked each other. He had never attended any class reunions, so I decided to track him down online, and found a New Jersey phone number and address although I knew he’d lived in the Midwest for many years. I called and heard his voice on the outgoing message—I had found him! But as I started to leave a message for him, suddenly his wife picked up the call and told me that Marcus had passed away earlier that year. She told me a bit about his life and what had happened, and I offered my condolences and told her how well-liked he was by his classmates. Found and lost, just like that. I felt sad, and still do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Ruth…while there are many positives in living into our later years, one of the less than positives is the gradual loss of those we have known. I can only imagine how really disappointing and sad it was for you to discover that, having gotten your hopes of connecting with this old friend in your new “home town”, you learned that he was no longer alive. I do know intuitively, though, that given some time, you will be making new precious friends and I hope you will let us know when that happens!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I’m coming to realize that aging is all about loss. Friends pass away, the body no longer functions like it once did, things we once did easily become difficult chores, and all sorts of others losses can be overwhelming. What is standing out for me right now is the very real threat that we coud lose the America in which all are truly equal with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should add that there is a sort of freedom to be found when I accept and embrace loss, recognizing loss as part of life’s journey. It’s paradoxical.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Ruth, How nice it would have been to renew an acquaintance with an old friend in a new city. I hear how disappointing this feels and how sad it feels for the loss of someone you knew well. The friends and connections will appear when it is time, but that doesn’t lessen what you are feeling right now. Hang in there, Ruth. We love you !!!

    Schmode

    PS. Brrrr. Kudos to you for walking around the lake in 7degree weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I suppose it’s the age, but maybe more the desire to find a common thread through life‘s experiences over a lifetime. A shehekkianu of sorts. Beyond reunions, and through virtual and social media I have reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in decades. Maybe even acquaintances at one time might’ve been friends. But who knows? nostalgia has limited shelf space but there are anchors to time and place that put the whole story in perspective.

    i’ve been thinking this year of engaging in non-fiction short pieces (well, short by my standards) recalling tales of my life.

    and this is let me to believe that perhaps more fully formed memoirs need to be written not just from my point of view with the years providing a protracted perspective, but perhaps written from others who knew me win to get the full Picture from the inside out in the outside in. Memories are shifting sands

    Don.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful! Is this the item you told me about when we spoke (happily) yesterday? Sorry about your friend.

    Onward to tomorrow.

    Love, Me

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I appreciate and am drawn to the authenticity of your writings, and how you are walking through the changes brought about by a new start in a new city with all that entails, and in this piece the possibility and longing of reconnecting with someone familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

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