Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old Friends

Old friends,
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends.
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends.

Old friends,
Winter companions,
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset.
The sounds of the city,
Sifting through trees,
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends.

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.

Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear . . .

Time it was,
And what a time it was,
It was . . .
A time of innocence,
A time of confidences.
Long ago . . . it must be . . .
I have a photograph.
Preserve your memories;
They're all that's left you.*

I was wandering through some YouTube videos and stumbled over this old Simon & Garfunkel duet and it struck me: in only 12 years I will be 70.  Then I got to thinking about what I was doing 12 years ago. I had been working a part time job, which I loved, and I began working full time in another job. I had a 10 year old and a 15 year old. I was in the throes of freshman dances, volleyball, and track on one front and of Pee Wee football, traveling basketball, and Little League on the other. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going most of the time.

But . . . it seems like just yesterday! And that fact sobers me as to how fast the next 12 years will go by. I try to think who my friends will be then, sharing that park bench with me; and I realize that some of my friends will not be here with me then. Or maybe I won’t be there to sit on the bench or swing on the porch swing with some iced tea or a glass of wine.

In realizing how fast time is going by, I am convinced of how much I need to spend time with those who mean the most to me. I am frequently led to a “seize the day” mentality. My brother’s death at the age of 51 shook us all—my husband, my other brother, my cousins—to the core; we now know that each time we are together could possibly be the last.

Now I look at life differently, and I treasure all my relationships more deeply. I look for opportunities to spend quality time with those I love.

Of course, I realize that “old friends” are not necessarily those from high school. High school and childhood friends are important people, they knew me when I was goofy, awkward, and a little crazy; but I have made friends later that are absolute gems in my life story. So are “old friends” those of 20 years or of 50 years? I can think of four people in my life that I connected with immediately— in other words, they were “old friends” without any time actually passing. It’s not really about time anyway, it’s more about depth.

Yes, I can imagine us years from now, with our memories. It’s not hard to picture being 70 anymore, as Paul Simon, who himself will turn 70 this October, can surely testify.

On Deck: Dealing With Loss

In the Hole: Hospitality

* Lyrics copyright © 1967, 1968 by Paul Simon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Love The One You're With

My inspiration for these blogs comes from odd places. As we meet for our meals at Giovanni’s, I hear this theme repeated over and over. Who were our earliest friends?

As I was writing this, I found myself helping a young female Facebook friend write a college paper on “Does our society help or hinder the formation of friendships?”  Her guidance counselor (another friend of mine who is about 34) and I jumped right in with our ideas.

One of the things I mentioned was how “in my day” we didn’t drive all over the place, or had parents that would drive us all over the place, so our first friendships were formed within our neighborhoods or at the very least, walking or bike-riding distance. Our closest friends were those who were “in our path”. The guidance counselor, now an asst. principal in a large high school in our area, talked about technology actually keeping the youth of today from making quality friends.

When I think of my pre-Fairborn days; up until 6th grade, my best friends were literally in my neighborhood. I had some in my Girl Scout troop, and remember visiting back and forth, but my best friends were in the neighborhood. I will never know how that would have played out had I stayed in Medway.

I moved to Fairborn in September of 6th grade. My first good friend was Patty Buschemeyer (in my class) and her neighbor, Debbie Smith, who was in another class. Debbie is my close friend to this day. Back in the time when our social lives consisted of going over to one another’s houses after school, we fixed hair and dressed up in each other’s clothes, listened to our favorite records and just talked.

Think about your neighborhood? Were the adults involved in these friendships too? Sometimes that was the case and sometimes it wasn’t. Although our neighborhood did not have cookouts or “block parties,” I know that they did happen in some. Those were special and create very special memories.

Neighbors can be more like family than extended family. Those bonds go deep because they are the ones you go to in emergencies; whether it’s just a cup of sugar, or calling them to come cry with you because you just found out your brother died, and your husband is up working on the roof! (As I publish this blog, I remember the fourth anniversary of my brother's death)

When we were young we could not call each other whenever we wanted. The family telephone was usually in a prominent, not private place. We couldn’t get into much mischief there! It was a “luxury” to have a telephone in your room. I remember a friend from a large family. When we were in college, if we wanted to talk, I would pull the telephone cord under my parents’ door and under my door, stretching the phone as far as I could, and we would talk in the middle of the night, which is when he could use the phone at his house! About then, my Dad put a phone jack in my room!

In short, we had relationships with those who were near (And now “Love The One You’re With” starts playing in my head). I find I have different, deeper relationships with those I've known since childhood than with anyone I've met later in life, and I have many deep friendships. I treasure my youth friendships to this day. I know that I can’t fake anything with them.

On Deck: Old Friends

In the Hole: Dealing With Loss

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Being Married to a Teacher

If someone had told me that I would marry one of the teachers at FHS I would have told them they were nuts! My joke is that I am walking down the hall hand in hand with (fill in the blank) and God speaks from His heaven as Jerry is walking the other way…”But THIS man will father your children!” This is why we can’t see the future. I would NEVER have imagined marrying a teacher, even if they were cute.

So it was in October 1975, it was an "off" night for the World Series—or I would have been home watching that historic World Series—my friend Debbie and I went to visit our friend Vern at his apartment and his then wife thought we ladies should meet this neighbor of theirs. So it was her idea, and we went to Jerry’s apt. and she introduced us. Jerry claims he was sitting on his porch but I definitely remember being in the apartment, so both could be true. I thought he was kinda cute, but HIS thought was "Too bad one of those girls isn't dating material!" Now, if he'd had any sense, he would have dated Debbie as her dad was president of the school board at the time.

Jerry announced the Flyer basketball games. I had moved home from living in Columbus from my graduation in 1974 until the end of Sept. 1975 and everyone had gone their own ways and there wasn't much for me to do; so one of the things my Dad and I did was go to the basketball games. I did "seek out" the opportunity to talk to Jerry at appropriate times, and that was that. I did NOT stalk him, no matter what he tells you!

In mid-January, it was the annual crosstown battle between Baker and Park Hills, and Baker was away, which meant Jerry did NOT announce; so I did (forwardly) go up and sit down next to Jerry and Tom. I think Tom invited me (??). After the game the three of us went to the lounge at the Holiday Inn; and I know I had something to drink and I never could hold my alcohol, and I sat on Jerry's lap! Oh my goodness. Then, in order to impress me I guess (I love to tell this one on him), he lit up a cigarette. Uh.....both my parents smoked, and I didn't, but I knew when someone was lighting the WRONG END! So he impressed me too! It's a miracle.....

The following weekend I guess he thought he should ask me out, and we went to see the "Hindenburg" after the basketball game. (Is it unusual that our first date was a catastrophe movie?) The rest is history.....

That was January 1976; we dated until early November and he broke up with me until January 1977. I always tell him that he got out of buying a good Christmas gift for me and he broke up with me after I had bought him a very nice and out-of-my-budget sweater for his birthday which is October 26 and I hadn’t even paid for it (!) so when that bill came, it was like a double whammy. In January 1977 he wanted to get back together, but I was 23 and he was 30 and I told him I had other things to do if this relationship wasn’t going anywhere! So he proposed and although his first idea was in mid-August, when I realized his sister was expecting a baby mid-August, the discussion didn’t even happen. We were married Thanksgiving weekend.

I think the biggest challenge to being married to a teacher in the high school you attended (other than the obvious financial challenges of his salary being the main salary) was learning to call the other teachers by their first names. It was a process and did not happen overnight. The easiest were the closest to our age, such as Marilyn and Dave A. The harder ones were the more elderly. The only principal I could never call by his first name was Fred Buschemeyer. By 1977 there was a different head principal so there never was an issue there. I would say it took about five years to “arrive.”

In an educator’s home, the primary emphasis is placed on lifelong learning. Even before we had children, our vacations were usually centered on visiting either (1) friends, or (2) some historical site, or (3) both! Almost every outing we took the kids on was educational. (The joke in our family is that our son says “I was ten years old before I realized that other families did more than take ‘nature walks’ on their vacations!” I believe he actually used that in a college presentation!) Books and trips to the library were frequent. Our kids learned their alphabet when they were two on a special keyboard for the old Commodore 64 computer!

The kids were never involved in anything unless the grades were there first. Our children were heavily involved with sports, and my son prepares to be a teacher and coach. My daughter coached track her first spring in college, and she is married to a basketball coach. Even though sports have been a heavy part of the family interest; the first thing was education.

Although I think it’s fair to say this can be true of other professions, and probably reflects the personality as much as anything, being married to an educator is that they have to “look everything up.” Something can come up in daily conversation and the educator has to “look that up.” (Or have me do it, frequently, as I have the laptop on my lap!) I have to say, the Internet is a wonderful thing. I can say it usually is not boring, although I am writing this during March Madness—sigh!

Daughter of an educator, wife of an educator and mother of a future educator. I really know nothing else! And now that we are soon to become grandparents, I fully expect it to continue to the next generation.

On Deck: Love the One You’re With

In The Hole: Old Friends.