One cannot reach the age of 70 and not be aware of the losses in one’s life. It’s inevitable. Grandparents. Parents. Possibly siblings. Even a child. I lost another friend this past week and this caused me to pause and think back to others I’ve lost along the way.
I was 38 when I lost my first girlfriend. I had met Cynthia in 8th grade. We had just moved back to Salem from Ohio, where we’d lived for six years. I had to transfer in the middle of the 8th grade which is never easy. But Cynthia was one of the first to welcome me at school. She also had a Polish last name with a million letters and difficult to pronounce. We didn’t really “hang out” in the first couple years of high school but we knew each other and would chat. But we became best friends a couple of years later when we were both young moms. I had my daughter in October of 1964 and she had her son that December. I think we began bumping into each other in downtown Salem as we both pushed baby carriages and a solid friendship was formed. And that friendship grew and lasted until the day she died. Cynthia went through a divorce and ended up becoming a nurse. I really admired that and although I’m not certain, I think it was because of her that I decided at age 30 to attend college and also become an RN. But 8 years later, Cynthia was gone from pancreatic cancer. It was shocking and sad. I was with her a lot during that final year as she fought the battle with radiation and chemo. But in the end, there was no hope and she left behind a son and a daughter, both college students. Maybe because she was the first friend I lost, I took it very hard and even now I look back and have sorrow for all the years she wasn’t able to enjoy and grow older. I’m still in touch with her son on Facebook and that gives me comfort to see the man he became and his four children. Something Cynthia had taken from her.
A couple of years later, I lost another friend, Theresa. Newly remarried, we bought a home in Peabody and Theresa was our neighbor. She was just two years older than me, we had children the same age and I loved her company. She was a feisty Italian from Dorchester. I admired her spunk and her humor. She attended our daughter’s wedding and we made a lot of memories. So when I moved to Florida, we still stayed in touch. I still remember the day my mother called to tell me it was in the Salem News that Theresa had been killed in a tragic car accident. In Florida. She was down here on vacation with her mother and her sister, Karen, a few years younger. They were driving from the west coast of Florida to the east coast and had been hit head on by a tractor-trailer. All three were killed instantly. Theresa left behind 3 children and Karen left behind one daughter, who I’m still in touch with on Facebook.
And about a year and a half ago I lost another girlfriend, Karen, at age 70. In 1965 I moved into an apartment across the street from her. Susan was just a year old and she had two daughters about the same age. We became very good friends over many years. She was my matron-of-honor when I married Ray. We traveled with her and her husband. Over more than twenty years, our friendship grew and endured. We traveled with her and her husband. She visited me in Florida a couple of times. And then, she drifted away. I’ll never know why. Sometimes those things just happen. I tried to pursue the friendship for a while and then gave up. But we had built a history together and I was sad to learn she passed away from a pulmonary disease. All the memories of our friendship surfaced and I felt bad for the years we had lost.
This past September I lost another friend, Maureen. We first became pen pals back in 1978. She lived in England and I was captivated. She was also married with three children. We quickly switched to cassette tapes which enabled us to get to know each other better than letters. I can still recall my excitement in 1985 when Ray and I visited England for the first time and I had the opportunity to finally meet Maureen and her family in person. We even returned a few years later for the wedding of her son. Lots of years of friendship, lots of memories. Maureen had been diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it spread, none of the treatments worked and she was gone. I’m also friends with her children on Facebook, so I feel a part of her remains in my life.
And then the other day I learned of another friend who passed away, Jean. I met Jean when I worked for a dermatologist in Salem as a secretary. Jean was the office manager and we just clicked. We became very good friends and we also traveled with her and her husband, had dinners at each other’s homes, went to restaurants and social events. When I decided to go to college to become an RN, it was Jean who cheered me on and she was there when I graduated. Although we weren’t quite as friendly during the past years, we still exchanged Christmas cards with a note up until last year. But now, Jean is also gone.
It’s not easy losing a friend but I’m glad they came into my life. Because each one of them represents a particular time in my life that we shared together. Good times. Laughter. Fun times. Even sad times and sorrow. It’s these memories that at age 70 make me realize even more how very precious a good friendship is and how those memories are all part of my journey. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything!
See you here next time……………..