I grew up in a small town, but moved away early, returning on an annual basis, to see family, friends, and to enjoy vacationing in a big lake paradise. I have a few good friends there, but we reconnect only via Facebook and, if we are lucky, during my annual trek home. One close high school and college vintage friend I saw two summers ago, for the first time since she crafted her first baby. Babies are now getting married. Time is freaking me out. They accidentally sent an AARP card to my house instead of a proper birthday card.
I don’t know most of the news that goes on back home.
As a result of this dynamic, people have begun to disappear.
I used to hang out, when I was a college student home for the summer, with a cool young couple that included a teacher from my high school. It was sad when they divorced. She moved away; he stayed, remarried, and had a family. I visited him last when we both had an adorable five-year-old. Those sweet children just finished college. My friend, their dad, apparently died suddenly a couple of years ago. I stumbled on an article from our hometown newspaper that referred to the event—sadly, but sort of in passing, as it had already been some time.
That news hit like a punch in the gut. Emotionally speaking, as I don’t get in many gut-punching situations, and I don’t aspire to. Still, my attachment is strong, to the notion of having people of my generation walking around and available for future reunions. I can go to that place, then, but never that face.
His ex-wife, too, slipped away.
I’ve walked through the loss of both of my parents less than five years ago, and within fifteen months of each other. It’s different and empty in all kinds of ways that jump out in front of me when I least expect it.
I remember my grandmother when she became very old, and the sense I had that she had lost most of her contemporaries, close and not-so-close. I suspect that she never got used to it, that brief moment of shock and pain when it is remembered that someone isn’t there anymore.