5/9/11

After 30 Years

When I was 15 I met a girl who, after a few months of hanging out together, became my girl friend. Her name is Joyce. We were together for 5 years. My first long term relationship. She was five years older than me and had a car. Looking back, I think it's remarkable my parents didn't object to this relationship but they generally weren't "parental" in that way.

Last summer, after 30 years, I heard from her brother who is a few years older than me and was also my friend at the time. His name is Jim but we called him Brent. When I was just starting college, Brent got married and went to New Guinea to be a missionary with New Tribes Missions. He remains there to this day.

I'm not sure how Brent and I got reconnected but we did and after a long "catch-up" conversation, we agreed to keep in touch. Sometimes those agreements have legs, sometimes not. In this case, we have been pen-paling via e-mail pretty regularly. It seems that after all the catching up that people do following a long gap in relationship, Brent and I still have a lot to talk about - even though our lives have taken very different paths. He had four children, I had none. He's a "church planter" living high in the Indonesian hills of New Guinea where the road to his house is blocked by frequent mudslides. I'm a school administrator living less than a minute from I-5 where the only time the road to my house is blocked is during the Del Mar horse racing season.

While our lives have taken opposite paths, our souls have traveled in tandem over many hard, unexpected, and surprising roads. It's the sharing of "like experiences" that seems to energize our long dormant friendship. He is an old soul and so am I. We are both optimists but it's a tempered and nuanced optimism - informed by disappointment and the fatigue that comes with working hard and wondering if it wouldn't have been easier to take the road most traveled.

I have enjoyed this reconnection with an old friend who I still recognize by the voice his pen reveals. I can hear that voice in my head when I read his letters and time stands still. Strangely, I am not transported back to some former life. I don't feel reminiscent or sentimental. Quite the opposite. Something about the touching of his narrative with mine gives me hope that our separate yet overlapping stories are part of a larger, more important narrative that will outlive the both of us.

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