Today a coworker and I drove down to Salem to meet two former coworkers for lunch: one of them had left the firm and now works in Salem, and the other one retired.
I just got a nice instant message from the retired friend, who said she hates the thought that someday we might drift apart. I assured her that I rarely drift apart from anyone; they usually drift apart from me. The only thing that would cause me to drift apart from someone else is if the friend has done something that has hurt me, or if I feel that the person sucks me dry.
That prompted me to think about all the people who have passed in and out of my life over the years. I am typically the one who tries to stay in touch, even if not very regularly. We keep people on our Christmas card lists for years until they finally get struck off (if they haven't contacted us at all).
Our Christmas card list consists of old friends from school, college, or church, people we knew in Japan (mostly British people, for we found that many Japanese are not very good about maintaining contact), people we've met through our children's various schools, people we've known through participation in various groups, people we've met through the NICU experience (either staff or other parents), current or former coworkers of mine, and various other people we've met along life's way. We send a lot of Christmas cards, both snail mail and e-mail. We feel very fortunate to be a part of many vibrant communities.
As a young person, I was a voracious letter writer. I collected stationery, and I kept in touch with people far and wide. I even kept in touch with my all-time favorite teacher, Mrs. Pressman, until she stopped writing back a few years ago. I have no idea why. I've lost touch with some of my good friends from college, who just don't seem to make an effort. I was active in a women's group for several years and formed some close friendships. I've lost touch with nearly all those women now, not for lack of effort on my part.
I don't consider myself a paranoid person, but sometimes I wonder why some people do not work harder to stay in touch with me. Have I said or done something to offend them? Am I obnoxious? (Annette will get that joke...)
This happened with one friend living here in Portland. She suddenly just dropped her friends. I was not the only victim. I think it was connected to a new relationship she was in. Then out of the blue, a few years later, she invited me to have lunch with her. Throughout lunch, I was waiting for her to bring up her several-year silence. Nothing. She completely avoided the subject. I did too, because I wanted to see if she would bring it up. This was someone who came to visit me in the hospital when Christopher was born. She was a good friend, but not a close one. I still do not know what happened to that relationship.
Looking back at all the people in my life, I suppose it's expected that people have arrived in my life when I needed them and then others took their places when those people left. I am not lacking for friends or connections. But sometimes I do think of all of those missing people, the driftaways, and feel a sense of loss. Especially Mrs. Pressman, who I stayed in touch with for nearly 30 years.
Thank God for the people who have filled those gaps. Clearly, the ones who really matter never drift away.