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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Finding fringe friends

By PAT WICK

© Another Day in the Country

I ran across the name of some old friends whom I hadn’t seen in years. I call them “fringe” friends when we’re only in touch periodically, spasmodically.  I’d written their phone number and address in a spiral notebook I no longer use and found their entry while going through it.

When I saw their number I called on impulse, wondering whether they were still there.

The number wasn’t functioning. Then I realized they are 10 years older than me — a number getting larger and more ominous every year — and probably they were no longer there. No longer living?” Maybe. “No longer available? At least to me.

It’s sad to lose a friend, even those people who, for one reason or another, are not immediate in your life.  This was a couple, Gloria and Daryll, with kids the age of my children, going to the same church, living in the same town, some history in common, but not enough commonality to keep us really connected once I moved away. And that moving away happened 50 years ago. Fifty years? Unbelievable. 

Through the intervening years, I’ve seen them, heard from them — Christmas cards and brief visits — and then there was this long stretch of not being in contact.

Once, I drove through their town and tried to find where they lived. Daryll had retired by that time. They were no longer in the phone book.

I went back to Colorado for a school reunion a few years ago, found other friends who knew their whereabouts and looked them up.

It was good to see them. Time had taken a toll — on all of us. We went out to eat, talked about our children — now grown, of course — and said all those familiar things at the end of the day: “We’ll talk again soon,” and “We should keep in touch,” and “It was so good to see you!” 

I never saw them again — or even thought about them for that matter — until today, when I opened a book that used to I write in to keep track of books I’d read, or books I wanted to read, and saw their address and their phone number scribbled across a page.  

I tore out that page and threw it away, but not before I stopped and remembered Daryll, the skillful, gentle dentist who was really a farmer at heart — a kind, thoughtful, charming man. I’d known his parents and briefly dated his younger brother when I was a teenager.

And then I smiled at the thought of Gloria, his tall, slender, elegant wife, an artist who took art classes with me and whose kids used to tumble around in the back seat of my car as we’d drive to some craft store to get supplies. I had wished desperately for some way to keep her children calmed down, but no one had seat belts yet.  

Now, I hate seat belts; but they would have come in handy with Gloria’s kids.  When I’d last seen Gloria, I’d used the bathroom in their lovely home and found hedge apples in the bathtub.

When I rejoined them I said, “Where did you get hedge apples and what are they doing in your tub?” 

“Oh, is that what they’re called,” Gloria laughed, “I bought them at the farmer’s market, they’re supposed to drive away spiders.”

Someone in Colorado was marketing hedge apples! Amazing!  

“We have them lying in the ditches in Kansas,” I told her. “For free! When I get home I’ll send you some.”

And I did. Of course, it cost me an arm and a leg to mail them.

My doorbell rings, as I’m sitting at the computer writing. My doorbell rings so seldom in Ramona it’s almost shocking to hear it! I answer. It’s two tall guys from Centre schools, smiling and handing me an envelope.

“It’s staff appreciation week,” they say. “Thank you for all your work.”

It’s a gift card for pizza! How thoughtful! How nice. “Thank You!”

Well, I’ve torn out all the used up pages in my spiral pad.  It’s slimmer now — just like I am, thanks to Weight Watchers. It almost looks like a new tablet. It’s useful again.

I’ll put it out on the deck in the kitchen to continue making “to do” lists, address lists, and lists of books I want to read when the library opens up again.

I called Jess, “How about drive-by pizza for supper? It’s six points for a piece of thin and crispy veggie-lovers. Are you game?”

She was.

What I’ve found useful, in my own somewhat slimmer capacity, are jeans that I put away on the top shelf in readiness to take them to Goodwill because they were too tight. Now they fit splendidly!

During this time of store closure, that natural bent toward keeping things (not that I’m advocating procrastination) sure has come in handy on another day in the country.

Last modified May 28, 2020

 

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