In the Suburbs / After a 50-year gap, a bond of friendship is unbroken
Some 50 years ago, before my wife Mari-ann and I were married, she and her two closest friends, Avis and Fay, were inseparable.
They met in high school, compared boyfriends and fashions and -- as many young women in Chicago in the 1960s -- dreamed about futures with husbands and children. Later they evaluated each other's future spouses, except for Avis, who was immersed in a career.
Fay and her beau, Steve, married first, and we followed.
Eventually, Mari-ann and I moved to a Chicago suburb and same apartment building where Fay and Steve lived. Avis remained in Chicago.
About a year after we moved to the suburbs, I was transferred to Florida with my company. A few years later, Steve and Fay left Illinois, too, and moved to New Orleans. We stayed in touch as much as we could, but sadly, the three friends moved on in their own directions.
I visited Fay and Steve during a business trip to New Orleans in the early '90s.
We agreed to keep in touch, but we didn't. I urged my wife to contact Fay and Avis off and on once the Internet and email arrived. But she was studying for a master's degree in social work and just never found the time.
Two months ago, on a hot, sticky day, I opened my Facebook messages and found a note from Fay. My wife doesn't have a Facebook account, but mine apparently popped up. The note was short -- just a quick offer to reconnect and a little note saying she'd like to catch up.
At first I was stunned, but I responded with a warm note, asking her to send me an email and bring me up to date. She was living somewhere in Florida.
She never wrote back again. Had I offended her, I wondered, with my enthusiasm?
A week later, a note from Avis arrived on Facebook with a cryptic opening that maybe she'd have better luck with her friend Mari-ann than she'd had with Fay. The wonder site that reconnects people had done it again.
I made the same request to Avis -- who still was in Chicago -- that I'd made to Fay, urging her to write to me at my email address. I added a few pictures of us and the now-very-grown children, and I asked her to bring Mari-ann and me up to date.
She wrote back very quickly, and within 10 days, she and my wife were on the phone, giggling the same way they did in high school. Two hours later, we had both talked with her and were making plans. We told Avis her timing was great, because we were going to Chicago on Sept. 20, and we would absolutely make time to catch up on 50-plus years.
Of course, we all decided we looked the same and would have no trouble recognizing each other.
Last Saturday, with huge hugs, we met at a restaurant near our old apartment complex in a Chicago suburb. The years just fell away, the tears flowed and one story followed another.
Avis had married late, and it had ended sadly, but she had a beautiful daughter who is about to give birth, and she is absolutely thrilled at the prospect of becoming a grandmother. Her daughter lives northwest of Chicago, and the baby is due next week.
Among so many other things, she spoke wistfully of her parents, who had passed away awhile ago. We remembered wonderful evenings in their apartment talking about the things that starry-eyed young people discuss when they think they'll own the world someday.
And she spoke about her sister Toby, taken way too early by Legionnaire's disease at 57. That was very sad.
She wanted to hear every detail about our daughter's recent wedding reception and the gorgeous quilt my wife had made for our daughter and son-in-law.
Avis joked that she was having trouble just finishing an afghan for her new grandbaby.
Two hours later, we were still going strong, but we had another appointment and needed to leave. This time, however, we agreed we would keep in touch with no obligations and not disappear again.
You know that your friends are for life when they reconnect, you see them and it's as if nothing has changed. I just know we will make that happen this time.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.