Fixing What Was Broken
Of course, the drive up was filled with memories. I had been a high school dork, immature, silly, insecure, uncertain; she was a year older, smart, not afraid to be who she was, and on the elegant side. She had an eye that didn't work and was passionate about music. I didn't know why she wanted to be friends with me, but I was glad that she did. Her family life was different from most: Instead of a pair of parents and a sibling or two or three, she lived alone with her father. Her mother had walked out on them a couple of years before I met her.
I thought about that as I drove up through Hatboro, and how at fifteen I had found it interesting and curious and unusual, but nothing more. It never occurred to this self-focused teen to wonder about feelings of rejection, unwantedness, abandonment. By the time I reached New Hope, I was thinking about what I knew of my friend: She'd written on Facebook last winter of losing her father; I knew she had also lost her husband many years ago. So I was going off to reconnect with an orphaned, widowed, childless only child. And in Lambertville, I wondered what kind of a person I was meeting, what kind of impact all that loss would have.
The woman I met in Flemington was a delight. I would have known her right away. Looking younger than her 67 years, she still had that gleam in her [good] eye and warm, engaging smile. The conversation was easy, with a back-and-forth, give-and-take telling of life stories. Neither of us had that unpleasant eagerness for the other person to stop talking so it could be our own turn. We listened and shared and understood and affirmed.
She shared an epiphany she'd had after her husband had passed away: She had thought back to her high school years and had seen herself as uninvolved, unathletic, unpopular, a dorky follower (her? dorky? my early-elegant friend?) and decided to fix what was broken. She became involved in all kinds of things: a professional women's organization, the library board, a needlework group, and even took up horseback riding.
She spoke, too, about the experience of being abandoned by her mother, giving details I'd never known nor thought to ask about. She shared her feelings of anger, abandonment, incredulousness, bewilderment. And gave me the opportunity to listen, to affirm, to reflect and to empathize. Giving me, as well, a chance to fix what was broken.
After more than forty years, to find that a friendship between children can be rebirthed as a friendship between women -- it was an amazing gift. A day that was lovely in so many ways.