Different Paths

My 40th high school reunion is coming up, and through the magic of Facebook, lots of old photos and names have surfaced, making us look back with a sentimental eye at a time when we didn’t have all these grownup responsibilities. That got me to thinking about one friend in particular. I think what happened to us is the way it is for a lot of friends who drift apart through the years. Don’t wait — call an old friend today. This piece is from 2005, and by the way, my friend and I had lunch a couple of weeks ago. You wouldn’t have known we hadn’t seen each other in at least 35 years. We laughed and talked just like we used to.

I called a high school girlfriend the other night. We used to send Christmas cards or a note or two through the years, but that dropped off until, for the past few years, nothing. I sent her a letter to let her know our new address three years ago.

We were on the newspaper staff in high school, and when we were seniors, we were lab assistants together for a sophomore biology class. We played more than worked. After graduation, she went to work at the Wichita General Hospital, and later got me a job there. We worked odd hours, and always took our lunches together. Her yellow Ford Pinto took us all around Wichita Falls while we listened to the Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night 8-track tapes.

I was a bridesmaid at her first wedding. The avocado green dress still hangs in the back of my closet.

After she graduated from college, she went to work as a dental hygienist, and I went to work at the post office. Then we didn’t see each other at all. I might have seen her once in the last 28 years.

But lately she had been on my mind. Sometimes I would think about her when I’d hear one of those Three Dog Night songs, or when I’d run across her name in my address book, but I’d been thinking about her out of the blue, just wondering what she was up to.

I didn’t know about calling because it had been so long since we’d talked, and if I’d thought about it for very long, I probably wouldn’t have dialed the number (or pushed the buttons). Almost without thinking twice, I looked up her number, and called.

Her husband answered, and I had a brief fear that maybe they weren’t together anymore. But he asked if I could give her a few minutes because she was icing a cake.

Icing a cake?

I gave her a little while and called back. She answered the phone with “Hi!” and her voice sounded just the same as it used to, and she was glad to hear from me.

She had been thinking about me too lately and we laughed at the weirdness of being on each other’s minds. We got caught up on our families — parents and siblings and husbands, and my kids.

She and her husband still live in the same house they’ve lived in for at least 25 years. They also have some land with a mobile home on it where they go hunting, with guns and bows. We watch squirrels in the yard.

They love to go scuba diving.
Mike’s digging a hole in the yard for his stream, waterfall and pond.

They have bees.
We have Sophie the dog.

Both she and her husband have motorcycles, and they drive them to work.
I have my trusty gas hog SUV, and Mike has his 16-year-old pickup.

She now works in the high security unit of a prison, doing her hygienist thing on the inmates, who come in to see her in shackles, chains, handcuffs, and always with a guard.
I work at a newspaper. You can draw your own conclusions as to any similarities there.

She says her hair is short and blond. It was always brown, and long and straight in that ’70s way.
If I don’t get some color on my hair soon, it’ll be gray instead of French Roast.

There’s little in our lives that’s similar, except getting up and going to work. Maybe helping parents off and on, or making cakes for co-workers, which is why she was icing a cake when I first called. I guess some things like that are universal.

We said the next time I was in town we’d try to see each other. That makes me a little nervous, because I don’t look like I used to.

It was just funny to think of my friend keeping bees, and driving a motorcycle to work at a prison. All those years ago, who would have thought?

I felt a slight wave of dullness compared to her, but it passed. Going blond crossed my mind, or at least some subtle shade of red, but guess I’ll stick with French Roast, and Sophie the dog. I don’t deal well with bees, or any bugs. Which is another reason I probably wouldn’t get a motorcycle and ride up and down I-35 to work.

We did go different directions, but talking about families and work makes you realize that maybe the paths aren’t that different. They’re just parallel, sometimes curving closer together and sometimes farther apart. And sometime, they just might cross again farther down the road.

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