Growing older often brings with it, gifts that can only be wrapped and delivered with the passage of time.
This post isn’t what you think it is. And maybe you will think me a little “off” once you hear what it is. But, the title of this blog is the one that best describes how I feel about the events of this past weekend.
Nearly fifty years ago, I met a friend, by way of our mutual friend and then we became friends. We were both single and for a minute contemplated a romance, but quickly came to our senses. Not one to let a good friend be lost to a romance that wasn’t meant to be, we both persevered in our friendship, now for almost half a century.
He, a quirky guy, married a beautiful woman with a heart-shaped face and a heart that welcomed me. ‘Bless her. I married my own quirky guy (whom I later divorced and re-married.) In between, Steve and his wife travelled from Tennessee with their first-born and spent time with me and mine. Later, they came to visit us when we lived in the DC area. When my girl and I returned to California to reunite with my guy, the drive across the country included a detour to Nashville specifically designed to spend time with them before continuing West.
That was 26 years ago. It was the last time we were in the same place together. But, now they were headed West for a wedding and my far away friend announced via an unexpected email, that he and his beloved would be dining with us on August 4.
They arrived at LAX early early Saturday morning, texting me that their rental car wouldn’t be available until noon. Yikes! I jumped out of bed and dashed out of the house, sans make-up and in the clothes I’d had on the day before. They are those kind of friends–no need to impress, only to show up. So, show up I did.
He was mildly disappointed that I was driving a Ford and not a European sports car but, agreed to get in with a promise of breakfast to come. We headed to a small community adjacent to LAX where we shared a meal, took some pictures and then drove along the coast so they could soak in the sparkle of the early morning Pacific. We headed North on Vista Del Mar as beach goers claimed their turf for the day.
Their rental was ready, so I deposited them just off Century Blvd. and they headed East to one of the Presidential libraries they’d planned to visit. As for me, I returned home to prepare for their return for dinner around our table. When they arrived just after 6, they met my husband for the first time and everyone was instantly at ease. If you’d been a fly on the wall, you’d have assumed we were all long time friends in the habit of gathering together often. We meandered around our kitchen island drinking cold beverages and the years and distance melted away with the summer heat. There was no lack of ease in the room, no extended silences, no aloofness – only the comfort that comes from knowing and being known and believing down deep that you are welcomed as you are.
We sat at our table and ate too much food. We talked for hours, not about superficial things but about the many things that had transpired in our lives since we’d been together last. There were the expected “catch up” conversations about our children and their lives today, our families and how they’ve evolved. We came current as we took in braised short ribs and strawberry shortbread dessert. There was a lot of laughter, and then some sorrow too, which morphed into deeper conversations. We shared joys and sadness because the best lives are full of both. And- because there was no sense of risk involved. We were safe together.
My husband, still recovering from a recent illness, said goodnight early, but the three remaining compadres sat up late, sharing more stories , unwilling to let the one night we had together end too soon. They had a full day planned for Sunday and it was unlikely we’d meet again before their departure on a train early Monday morning. Still, as I stood at the front door sending them off to their hotel, I couldn’t help interjecting (okay, I was kinda pleading) that “IF” they were up to it after another day at another library on Sunday, we’d be so happy to meet for another meal at a local restaurant. (a girl can dream, right?)
I fell asleep with a full heart and a prayer that it might possible to reunite just one more time. The next morning we texted and I was thrilled to receive her response, which said in part,
“…Such a precious time last night. I hope we’re up to dinner tonight. We are planning to unless the day gets too long. It’s good to be here and to be near you guys. ‘Don’t want to miss the opportunities God has for us…”
My heart swelled with hope. I prayed for a burst of energy that would bring them back to us. By 5:30 there was a text that they were headed our way.
So there we were, once again, sharing a meal and our lives for another three hours. And, then, at the end of a long day, we said good bye knowing it would be our last for a long while.
It was more than a little heartbreaking for me. You see, I was reminded anew how very much I love them. I realized that though 26 years and 2,022 miles had come between us, the closeness I felt for them had never gone away. Added bonus: the husband now had come to know and love them, too. Although I knew I loved them, it felt like “falling in love again.” I was reminded afresh, how very special they are, how like-minded we are, how we share values, faith and perspectives on so many important things. It was a little glimpse of Heaven. For reals.
“I felt my heart strangely warmed.” -John Wesley First love.
I had forgotten what it felt like.
But-then, I was reminded.
They arrived back home just yesterday. We now have a group text going and I vow it’s going to keep going. They are the next-door neighbors we’ve always longed for. We’ve rediscovered a long-lost love and it has left my heart bursting with joy.
May it burn strong for all my days. And, Lord, if it’s not asking too much? May they be our next door neighbors in Heaven, if not on Earth? Please and thank You.
Amen and Amen.