Post 839: long goodbyes…

We all have them, friends we adore and enjoy so much we can’t imagine not having them regularly a part of our lives. Often, though, those friends disappear until you come across an old photo to remind you that you once adored them and enjoyed their company.

We broke bread together in Paris. We were young and full of ourselves. We loved our lives and lived them fully.

We broke bread together in Paris. We were young and full of ourselves. We loved our lives and lived them fully.

I would have guessed most of us in this photo were fated to be friends for life.

Cathy. Deborah’s sister, I met only in Paris during this visit and had no more contact with her.

Deborah I saw a time or two later in France and Kaiserslautern, then briefly in 2001 when she visited Nebraska to see Ralph and his father. She was moving from the West Coast with her three cats in tow. I met her cats and we discussed their personalities for a few minutes while Ralph and his father waited in the car. (Ralph is allergic and has the misfortune to chose friends who harbor cats in their hearts and homes…!)

Deborah borrowed my camera to take some souvenir photos of Hunawihr. When I got the film processed after I returned to Kaiserslautern, this charming photo was among those she'd taken!

Deborah borrowed my camera to take some souvenir photos of Hunawihr. When I got the film processed after I returned to Kaiserslautern, this charming photo was among those she’d taken! Cats are a common thread in our lives. (from 1971 trip to France)

Tim disappeared from the radar, but turned up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He called me once. We talked for a long time, made vague promises to keep in touch, then didn’t. Well, I guess I did contact him by phone one more time several years later when, on a whim, I typed his name in google and found out he’d become a successful architectural photographer. Check out his link. Tim’s very talented.

Don't pass into the portal because...

Don’t pass into the portal because…

...you will disappear!

…you will disappear!

Tim is in these photos, two from a series where he runs into a tunnel under a railroad bed, then gradually disappears by the last frame. Curiously, this foretold the fate of our friendship.

Ralph, Debroah, and Cathy send Tim (hanging out of the window) and me off to Kaiserslautern after our Paris visit. We were very sad and the goodbyes long.

Ralph, Deborah, and Cathy send Tim (hanging out of the window) and me off to Kaiserslautern after our Paris visit. We were very sad and the goodbyes were long.

“Goodbye”, from “God be with you”. Au revoir and auf wiedersehen (literally “on seeing [you] again”). Some combination or all of those phrases passed among us till the locomotive pulled the train out of the station in Paris on its way to points east, including Tim and my “home base” at the time, Kaiserslautern, Germany.

We were young and full of ourselves. We loved our lives and lived them fully. When we assured each other we’d get together again some day, we drank the Kool-Aid of self-delusion: No, really! We would get together again! “See ya!”

The older I get, the more I understand long goodbyes.

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30 thoughts on “Post 839: long goodbyes…

    • Thanks, Pierre! I’ve been very aware of how this works lately and had to write about it to make sense of it. My 50th high school graduation anniversary is next year, and I’ve decided I don’t want to take part in it because most of the people in my class and I live in different worlds. I keep in contact with the ones who matter to me.

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      • Idle curiosity about people I knew as a kid isn’t sufficient to drag me into a social setting after 50 years. What is being renewed? At best, it would result in an extension of a long goodbye begun in 1966!

        Let them hear from people I do have contact with: “Oh he’s retired and lives with two cats, one of whom he’s named after himself. But his cat Dougy is NOT a junior — he has a different middle name, mark my words!” “Tsk! Tsk! I always knew Doug was, erm, bent….”

        :\ 😦 😦

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    • As far as being a fly on the wall, I do see people who actually go to these things, so I can find out how it was from them. Unless they are telling me stories to make me feel like a smarty, my sense of how they are is accurate, .

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  1. This is such a touching glimpse of someone’s life, I enjoyed it very much. And it is so true, people you often think when young, will be with you forever, drift away like sand on the beach, others, are there till your dying day. It’s just part of the passage through. *smiles*.

    – sonmi upon the Cloud

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      • I have a great friend who has been just that since I was five years old. Many many decades. It’s nice to have that connection over time. I also have wonderful friends picked up along the way too mind you. But no one likes a show off. *winks*.

        – sonmi upon the Cloud

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      • My oldest friend goes back to the nursery at our church (when we were, obviously, very, very young!). My second oldest goes back to when we were two years old and began our friendship[ with a territorial “fight” that blossomed into a lifelong friendship. Some of my friends I’ve known (as I indelicately put it) “since you were in poopy pants”, which is fun since one is a dentist now, another a successful businesswoman, another a mother of five kids who all turned out better than average (good job of parenting!). Some are people I worked with, though several of those have died since our friendships began in 1973 when where we worked just barely was opened. The people who remain friends I cherish. The ones who disappeared all went on to other phases of their lives, as did I. I can’t think of anyone I dropped out of anger, disappointment, or for other reasons, though there is one who is getting close to the abyss….!

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    • How true. As I’ve noted elsewhere, it used to bother me because I held this notion that once I made friends with someone, necessarily were friends forever, barring some terrible argument or event that poisons the friendship beyond redemption.

      None of the principals in this tale nor I committed a faux pas that explains why we don’t remain in contact. I now accept that even apparent good friends may be temporary and particular to specific places and times.

      Though I enjoyed all the absentee people in that time and place, thought of them as friends, it wasn’t in the cards that we’d be more than “friendlies” with each other rather than true friends.

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    • Thanks. It used to bother me when people I though=t should be great friends because we had great times together at one point just disappeared, didn’t make an effort to contact me. Then I realized some friendships are meant to be short term and specific to a certain time and circumstance.

      They can’t exist outside of those narrow boundaries, though one still has warm feelings for the people involved, theoretically.

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  2. You and me both and this past week when Tim was in the va hospital in Seattle I stayed with a friend who lives near the hospital and got a chance t catch up with what is happening with old friends I have not seen in a long time.

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    • One never knows. People I didn’t expect to see again pop up, and people I’d love to see disappear from view. I’m glad you had a friend to stay with in Seattle. That must have been helpful on many levels!

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  3. Every so often, I go through my photo albums of old photos – before there was such a thing as the Internet. It’s so easy to be brought back to an earlier time and relive them in mind and heart. I enjoyed your reminiscences.

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    • Thanks! That may be both the blessing and curse of photos. I do enjoy looking at old photos and trying to imagine the circumstances that prompted someone to take them. Of course, if they are ones I took, that isn’t much of a challenge, but I have lots of photos taken by other family members that have mysteries behind them and all too many unknown people in them.

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  4. I understand totally what you feel.
    I have the impression that every step of my life was a time with some friends then to the following step the ancient friends are vanishing and others happen. And at the step before the last you have not many friends remained . You have only the family . I tried to re- contact some old friends but this is broken . Perhaps, I am responsible . I have the philosophy to trace a line to separate the périods of my life : always looking ahead and never behind . But of course I cherish my memories. Your post is especially humane .
    In friendship
    Michel

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    • That’s pretty much the point I reached: No point in poking the dead horse with a stick to see if it will move, eh?! I have no regrets about the people who came and went from my life, but I recognize there are just more reasons to treasure those who continue to stick aroundf.

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  5. People flow in and out of our lives like water, sometimes tarrying a while in an eddy or pool, sometimes rushing through like a string current. All of them etch and shape us as they pass by, leaving their presence written upon the stones of our lives.

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  6. There is a saying which goes, that people come into our lives at certain times to fill a void and then they leave us…..something like that. I don’t believe it but hey who am I to ruin a good cliché.
    I have been an army brat while growing up and was always saying goodbye to friends I would never see again. This was very difficult as a teenager….that was when I had two heads and pimples down to my toes. A very self conscious kid was I. I now have friends I haven’t seen in 5 years and when they come to town we chatter like it was yesterday when we last saw each other.

    Jean

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    • I’ve friends like that. My friend Ralph is a good example. At the best of times, he comes to town once a year. Lately, because of health issues, he’s not been back for three, four years. We exchange occasional e-mails and he reads this blog, but the best times are when we get together!

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