Monday, January 13, 2014

Is Someone Missing in Your Life?

     While on vacation I read a relatively new novel Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, a second effort by the author of the bestseller Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. The author is an artist and designer who also has an interest in historic preservation, antiquing and rescuing abandoned and abused animals.

     All these interests show up in her book, a meandering, sometimes engaging, sometimes slow-going story about Teddi Overman and her Kentucky farm family. Instead of going to college, young Teddi ran away from home, went to Charleston, SC, and took a job with an antiques dealer. She eventually opens her own shop, falls in love with a wealthy lawyer, and comes to uneasy terms with the family she left behind.

     I would recommend the book, if you like this kind of story, but what intrigued me about it was the character of Teddi's younger brother Josh, a nature lover who one night disappears into the forest never to be seen again. Throughout the rest of the book Teddi is forever trying to understand why he left, and accept the fact that he may be dead even while periodically finding evidence that he could still be alive.

     That question is never resolved absolutely. But it made me think of the people I have lost in my own life. Not the way Josh was lost, for that's the especially agonizing situation of a runaway child. But for all of us there are those who leave our lives prematurely. There are a few who died -- my older brother lost a battle with cancer; a friend's older brother was killed in Vietnam; the most beautiful girl in our high school class failed to show up at our 10th reunion -- she died of cancer before she was 30.

     We don't know if Josh died. We only know that he turned his back on home and family to follow some other dream. And it made me think more not of people who died, but of people who rejected our relationship in favor of other friends, other interests. There was my high-school girlfriend who abruptly broke up with me after Christmas vacation of freshman year in college. It was sudden; it was unexpected; and it took a long time to get over.

     I had several high school and college friends who drifted away over time as our paths diverged. That's to be expected. But some friendships are broken off. I tried to stay in touch with one of my best high school friends -- he never went far from home, but he clearly wanted to get away from me. He made excuses, wouldn't return calls, until I finally got the hint.

     The issue is not so much rejection (although that's part of it); but the sense that a relationship is torn apart, and somehow left unfulfilled. A broken promise. I developed a close friendship with a young man at the company where I spent most of my career. We had great fun shooting the breeze in each other's office; we had lunch together all the time; we had dinner at each other's houses with our wives. But then he got divorced. He started hanging out with another crowd. We no longer ate lunch together. We just exchanged awkward pleasantries as we passed in the hallways, until eventually he left the company for another job.

     I saw him again on two occasions. Once on an airplane. We changed seats so we could sit together and catch up on each other's careers and families. The second time was at a social occasion. Again, we talked and joked around, just like old times. But we never reconnected.

     We know we lose friends and lovers as we go through life. It's the ones who leave us abruptly, who leave us too soon, who haunt us forever.

15 comments:

DJan said...

I hear you. This has happened to me, both from moving away and losing touch, and others choosing to see others and avoid me. It hurts, but there's really nothing to be done except accepting it. You are a very good writer, Tom; I enjoy your thoughtful posts.

Jono said...

I miss almost all of those people, some more than others. Just part of getting older, I guess. It is fun to reconnect occasionally, as happened at the last college reunion.

Linda Myers said...

My dad was a military officer, so we moved around when I was a kid. I have very few friends from my younger years, though I have reconnected with a few via Facebook. As long as I make new friends from time to time, I am okay. I wish I had childhood friends, but then I didn't have a childhood neighborhood either.

gigihawaii said...

Very interesting commentary about what happens to all of us. I have a few childhood friends, but I don't socialize with any former co-workers, former club members, and ex-boyfriends. It seems that when I drop out of a club or church or office, I drop all social contact, too. Don't know why, but that is a fact.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

You know you are growing older when your kids have class reunions and comment on how many have been lost. David's daughter just upturned 0 (1/11) and he is still in shock. Julie's husband's company (he is a principle) just took on the Obamacare contract.

Can't tell you the name of the company, but we are all concerned about K's health as he is 48 and already had triple bypass surgery.

I am sure you know how stressful it is for the contractor's trying to straighten out the Obamacare website mess.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

That's 50...

Stephen Hayes said...

This post struck a cord in me; I haven't spoken to my older brother, my only sibling, in twelve years. I wasn't invited to my niece and nephew's weddings, and my brother didn't speak to me when he showed up at our father's funeral. My brother hadn't spoken to our parents in fifteen years at the time of my dad's passing. Unlike the person in your story who disappeared into the forest, my brother disappeared into corporate America and is extremely rich. Why did he cut us out of his life? I haven't a clue.

Douglas said...

We all lose people (the "bits and pieces") that we once thought were close. We drift apart because we change. They change too but I think it is the changes within ourselves that make the difference. I wonder what happened to the kids I used to hang out with; the ones who went to jail, the ones who might have gone on to college, and the girls I knew... especially the girls, it seems. But I don't think I really want to know.

Olga said...

Maybe a revival of that old television shoe: This is Your Life? Not enough drama and the opposite of the elimination theme so popular now so i guess not.

Bob Lowry said...

Besides my mom who died three years ago, the one key person in my life that left much too soon was my favorite Uncle.

He died suddenly after a failed heart operation in the mid 80s. Nearly thirty years later I still think of him often. His personality, and his impact on my life were immense.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

For you:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/booming/i-may-be-50-but-dont-call-me-a-boomer.html?_r=1

rosaria williams said...

Don't fret what's out of your control. People move on for a lot of reasons. I used to worry about this too; but life is too short. I do, however, keep after my children to remain close to us.

Hauola said...

This article certainly prompted me to 'examine from within' and reflect on the loss of a family member, and to acknowledge the changes in my personal growth which lead to leaving behind friendships from past segments of my life. Family member loss was my maternal grandmothers' unexpected death, she was 59 and I was 17. She was a kind, unbiased and loving woman. I know now I learned from the way she conducted her daily life, despite obstacles. I am understanding some friendships hold fast for specific segments of our lives, and the duration of those segments is not within our control.

Anonymous said...

Isn't progress wonderful.

francess said...



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