Reconnecting and its Tremendous Value
The last time I saw my friend Joan was a mile under the earth, in the dark, damp innards of Bethlehem Steel’s Grace Mine in Morgantown, PA. I worked there for a year and often as a mucker with Joan. Our job was to shovel the thick heavy mucky iron ore that dropped down under the conveyor belts and slowed them from moving the ore out of the depths of the mine. It was the lowest of jobs and everyone who came into the mine, started there. Joan was a recent college graduate who couldn’t land a job as a caseworker, so she went to work in the iron ore mine, where her father worked. Joan was in her twenties. I too was working underground and was in-between attending a university and heading to professional art school, squirreling away money to pay for my tuition and life in the big city of Philadelphia. That story is here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skTl9hqLdL
I lost track of Joan over the decades. But the other day when I was behind my little author’s table at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Wyomissing, PA, signing The World is Our Classroom, Joan came in to buy a book. She looked remarkably the same as she did nearly forty years ago. It was wonderful to see her and yes, she had been working as a case worker all these years since our days a mile underground.
Other people from my past visited me in those few hours that I signed books. The father of an old boyfriend, whom I had not seen since my late teens. A fellow hiker from Blue Mtn Hiking Club, that I had not seen since my 20’s. The wife of my drawing professor at Kutztown University, whom I modeled for in my 20’s. (Her husband, Fred was quite old and couldn’t get around very well but sent a very sweet note with his wife.) The mother of my hunting buddy Hoppy, was pushed into the store in a wheelchair, by her daughter, hoping to buy a book for her son. Then, an old neighbor from the block that I grew up on. I marveled at the vast amount of years that had passed since we had seen one another. Everyone came with stories, memories from the past, reliving parts of my life, my history. They were impacted by the moments we had shared together so long ago.
The lovely thing was we did not feel the need to make the other person an active part of our present life. We just honored the past and the role we each played in that season of our lives and was grateful for it. The gratitude and that honoring was a tremendous gift, which I was not expecting or counting on when it came to getting out there with my new book.
Human connections bring value to our lives. They give us a sense of belonging to a group, whether it was a school class, a member of a club, a fellow worker, a past relationship. It gives us a sense of identity, giving us a glimpse into who we used to be and who we are today, perhaps as a direct result of their influence, no matter how small of a role they played back then. On a very basic level, these people remind us not to feel lonely, (not that I ever do), and that we are connected and connection is important.
I had an open house at our log home when my book was first released last August and two high school classmates came, Bev (Glembocki) and her husband Goose Ganter. I had not seen them since I graduated in 1973- 45 years. I had a high school crush on Bev’s husband of many years and I remember asking HIM to the prom and he said no. Ha ha, he must have attended with Bev, a match made in heaven. I wasn’t too shy back when I was young and, fortunately, I only felt embarrassment for the rejection for only a fleeting moment. But it was like a brilliant ray of sunshine that entered my back yard whereI held my autograph party as Bev walked in. She had sunglasses on and when she removed them, I was taken right back to her wonderful sarcastic wit that always kept us laughing in high school. We sat at the picnic table and reminisced about our years in school and it felt wonderful.
Another high friend also attended, Tom Hafer, and it was equally as wonderful to see him. He looked exactly the same as he did 45 years ago. His wisdom and his intellect was off the charts back in our late teens, as they still are today, and I was delighted to learn that we currently share many of the same views of the world and its people.
Our 45th high school reunion is coming up in a few weeks and I am so excited to go. We have not held one for 20 years. My husband has absolutely no interest in reconnecting to his former classmates or even going to a reunion and I personally think he is missing a lot. There is only one childhood friend he sees and that is because of me. Chuck Diehl reached out to me over his desire to support our veterans non-profit and he and Todd have now seen one another on a regular basis at our functions. They may not talk about the days skate boarding on Todd’s homemade wooden half pipe in his home’s driveway, but just having that connection and knowing that person shares and honors that part of your childhood history, is valuable.
Facebook has enabled me to reconnect to people from my past. It always bowls me over when someone admits to following me for years, in newspaper and magazine stories and now on the web, completely unbeknownst to me. They are more than fans, they are cheerleaders rooting for the good work that I do, albeit silently to me, but nonetheless, putting wonderful support energy out into the universe. I am grateful for them all and my heart always swells every time I am made aware of one.
Six years ago, I learned that my college roommate got breast cancer but she beat it. We made an effort to finally see one another after decades because it had been way too long since we were together, so long that we had no idea when the last time even was. I always loved Val and cherished the time we spent living together in art school. I wrote a blog about our reuniting…
So taken back with our wonderful reuniting, and the love and fondness I felt for Val, after her visit, I told some friends, “If I got cancer, I would get in my car and travel the country, visiting old friends that I had not seen in decades.” A friend asked, “Why do you have to wait until you get cancer to gift yourself that?”
Good point. I don’t. I did decide, however, that I would wait until my new book was published and I would use an author tour as an excuse to see my old friends.
And ever since early September, I have been doing just that. I have since taken to the road to speak and sell my book and have been reunited with many old friends. And it has been a joy.
While I was traveling to New England on this most recent author tour, I heard the terrible news that my dear author friend, Pam Grout, had her only child, her 25 -year-old beloved daughter taken suddenly from her, from a brain aneurysm. I cannot fathom the pain and the loss she must feel. And I am reminded again, as I tour and speak. So much of my message is about raising and educating our children but the deeper message is cultivating a deeper connection to them, having more experiences, making memories. Yes, education is important and is really a side benefit from this intimate lifestyle and way of raising children. But I am reminded that there is nothing more important than relationships, our connection to one another. It teaches us the most important lessons, gives us the greatest gifts, lifts us the highest, whether they are our beloved children which we grew in our bodies, or childhood friends from our distant past. All remind us that we are connected.
Posted in: Life's Moments and Lessons