Almost without fail, I seem to get lots of traffic on days when I’m away from my computer. Today was one such day. I got a lovely link from Glenn Reynolds, but I couldn’t capitalize upon it by adding some scintillating posts because I’ve been gone all day. This inability to post, despite high traffic, wasn’t what made the day bittersweet, though. What made it bittersweet was that I took my mother to visit old friends whom I haven’t seen in twenty years, despite the fact that they were an integral part of both my childhood and my young adult years.
It was very strange meeting up with them, but in a good way. We’d all changed a great deal — my Mom’s friends are in their high 80s, while their child is, like me, middle-aged — but they were still, in essential ways, themselves. The mannerisms, the humor, the warmth — all still there. Even the half of the couple who was quite diminished by age and illness beamed with happiness when we walked in.
Given how old and frail my mom and her friends are, I had anticipated that our visit would last perhaps half an hour. Instead, we stayed for two and a half hours, catching up on old times, sharing stories about children and common acquaintances, and generally renewing a very good, very deep friendship. Even my Mom, who has kept in touch with her friends by phone, got a treat because she hasn’t seen them face-to-face in several years.
It all sounds good, right? So why was it bittersweet? It was bittersweet because, owing to a falling out that ran pretty sharp and deep, I lost twenty years of friendship with these people. Looking back, I can’t quarrel with either their side of the dispute or with mine. From where we stood, all of us were right. But we shouldn’t have let it waste twenty years. And it shouldn’t have taken someone’s serious illness to bring us back together. That’s bitter.
The sweet part, though, is that I believe this was a solid rapprochement. We weren’t just faking smiley faces to get us through an uncomfortable, but necessary, rendezvous. Instead, it felt right — and we already made plans to see each other again. And that is very sweet indeed.
When I was in elementary school, we sang a song that I bet most of you know. It seems very apt today:
Make new friends,
But keep the old,
The one is silver,
And the other gold.
Fortunately, this friendship was gold, and even the interruption of hard feelings and many years, couldn’t destroy it.