There is an old joke about people talking at a party never once mentioning the elephant in the room. For the past couple of weeks, there has been an elephant in my thoughts. I have shoved it away time and again and it just keeps popping up. It was such a casual thing that I decided to do and it never occurred to me that that short bit of research would haunt me.
There was this family where I grew up who were good friends with my family. They had three boys and a girl who was my age. This young girl, Susie, and I were best friends back then. Her older brother was my first crush, but I always thought that the youngest brother, James, was a really special person. James had such a sweet spirit about him with his lightening fast grin and his sense of humor was just as quick. Our families would often socialize together and they were the source of much fun paired with plenty of good food. Susie’s Dad taught me how to shoulder a rifle, which thankfully I’ve never had to do again, and she and I rode the Ferris wheel together at the county fair.
It’s only natural that these special people would occupy my thoughts at odd times since they became a meaningful part of my childhood. I had tried repeatedly to find any of the family on Facebook all to no avail. I had often thought about contacting them and saying hello which hasn’t really happened since before I got married. But I couldn’t think of how to do so without traveling there. Finally, one day, I had a big duh moment and realized I could just look them up on whitepages.com and immediately did so. I knew that Susie had married and couldn’t remember her married name so that was a definite dead end, but I figured I could find at least one of the brothers.
Working on the assumption that James still lived near his family home he seemed to be the logical starting point. I figured that from there and a phone call I could find Susie once more. White Pages used to be so simple, you looked up a name to find the address and telephone number which was fairly easy, and then, you could contact them. Now, they give you minimal information before sending you to their attached people finder service and before you know it you have more information than you want. That’s what happened on my search for James since the information provided showed that he is now deceased. Immediately, a thousand questions popped into my mind including how, why and when. It tore through me that this childhood friend had died and. once again, life seemed so unfair. That old adage that says “only the good die young” popped into my mind.
I had to find out more and sought the local newspaper’s obituary section. They only provide the most up-to-date listings and charge if you want to read older ones which seems pretty cheesy to me. I wondered if the funeral home site would have any information and went there. They were always a good company and proved themselves to be so still since you can look up any obituary you want without charge. There it was.
During October, 2009, he had died leaving behind his wife, children, and grandchildren along with his mother, sister, and the remaining brothers. My heart just broke for all of them especially his mother. First her husband and now, a son leaving her behind. The grief of losing a child is the worst and I can’t imagine her pain. I did get Susie’s last name and the town where she lives so I can contact her now, but the price of this information is formidable and in many ways, I’d rather not know. It was so nice in that cocoon of memories of a family intact and living their lives as I am living mine. Once shattered, that glass ball of memories can never be repaired.
Plus, I find that there is a new type of pain from losing a friend of my youth which I’m sure will be oft repeated. This must only be the beginning. So, now, I will contact Susie to say hello and give my condolences and on my next trip east, I feel compelled to see his mother and give her a hug. That visit, the definition of bittersweet, will be hard, but it must be done. So, farewell, my friend and Godspeed.