As most of you know, I turned 40 this year. The big Four-Oh. Four decades. My kids would call it "ancient". Back in May I actually did the math on how many days, hours, minutes and seconds that works out to.
I was bored. What can I say? Just know that it's a lot of seconds.
Anyway, these past few months I've been doing some thinking and some soul searching about things I've done in the past, and people I've met and left behind. Many of them deserved to be left behind. Some not. It's those "not" people I've been thinking about.
Long about October I sent out a birthday card to an old friend, one of those "not" people. Actually, she was my highschool sweetheart. This gal and I dated for a solid 3-1/2 years until just after high-school. At one point we'd been very close (no, not THAT close... we were good kids!). But, when she and I broke up... actually, when I broke up with her.... that was kind of the end of that. I didn't look back (despite some very good efforts on her part), for a myriad of reasons I don't want to go into here.
Now, those of you who know me will understand this, but I'll explain to those that don't know me: I'm not looking to get lucky with an old flame. She is happily married to a good man, they have five kids, and run a successful business together. I was curious what had happened in her life over the 20 years that had passed.
Well, I got a card back from her soon after her birthday, with a nice note telling about her family, husband, kids, and business. She doesn't have e-mail, since she doesn't do the internet (go figger!), so I wrote back to her in a letter, telling her about my life, my kids, the nutshell story of my marriage, and such.
Low and behold a few days after I sent that letter off, I got a phone call. We talked for a little while, mainly talking about kids and family. It was remarkable how similar she sounded to her teenage self after 20 years, as I'd found with other people I ran into at my parents church last week. Same voice inflections, same "tone", same laugh.
Since then we've talked maybe three times for a few minutes, mostly trying to set up a morning to meet at a Starbucks and have coffee, and just see how the other is doing. After 2 failed attempts (either one or both of us had to reschedule, and her schedule is insanely busy), we settled on trying this morning.
Well, this morning it worked, and we had coffee. I was a little nervous, but not much. I'm pretty up-front and self-assured, so "nervous" usually isn't my issue. We pulled into the parking lot at the same time, and wound up, just by chance, pulling the cars almost nose-to-nose in the parking spaces. She got out, we said hi, and walked in to get some coffee. I could tell she was really nervous, but she held it together pretty well.
She looked pretty much as I'd remembered, just a bit older, as we all are. Same eyes, same demeanor, only she's a little more outgoing, I think. There was an aura of confidence and competence about her that was more than I recalled from our youth. She is still very pretty, and (if she ever reads this I hope she doesn't get upset) has a strong resemblance to the way her mother looked when I knew her 20 years ago.
We sat down and I showed her some pictures of my kids and my parents. She'd never seen my kids that I know of, and we talked about them for a few minutes. She told me about her kids, about her husband, some of the trips they've taken, their honeymoon. We talked about brothers and sisters, and relatives. We touched on old times a bit, some of the fun stuff, and some of the more painful stuff.
While were talking about old times, she said something that had obviously been on her mind. She told me that, when I broke up with her (we were just 20 years old, such a long time ago, but the memory is so fresh), I hurt her more than I knew. Some months later, I recall being callous and somewhat of a jerk the night I told her I was getting married. I recall her face, and knew at that moment that I'd hurt her. Aside from a few very, very short hellos and a chance meeting on the freeway when my car broke down 10 years later.... we never spoke again. She said it took several years to get over that. That was something I didn't know, but it gave me the chance to say something I'd been wanting to say for years, too:
I'm sorry. I was a boy, not yet a man, and I should have handled it differently. I'm sorry.
It's funny how time heals, and makes things manageable, but I don't think anything ever heals completely. There were no tears (well, almost, but not quite), just the acknowledgment of things past, and a desire to say things never said. Life happens, the events of our lives mold us, and I think it's a mark of maturity to be able to look back and acknowledge them. And that's really what is was: simply an acknowledgement of some events in our lives that helped shape us into who we are now.
We walked out to the parking lot, and talked a few more minutes. I'd told her I'd like to meet her husband and her family some time, and she said she'd run it by him. I mean, I understand I'm not a part of his life, or her kids', and to be honest, I'd be surprised if they know anything about me. I was way before their time.
In fact, in the grand scheme, I'm only a very small part of her life. 3-1/2 years. Not a long time, really, but its amazing how the memories can stay with you for a lifetime.