Serendipity: An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. The gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
“If you can guess who this is, you win a free dinner.”
“Uh, just speak a few more words.”
Before he could even get three words out….the light went on.
“How did you know? I can't believe you knew it was me.”
“Oh my God.”
I’d know that voice anywhere. Surprisingly, it was not so different from what I remembered 41+ years ago when we were a young couple and I heard that voice every day. I remember fondly our time together spanning my senior year and beyond…out into the ‘working world’ for me; while Fran continued his education in pursuance of a career in law. He remembers it differently.
“I think we went out in our junior year too. I’m pretty sure we did. We were together for like 3 or 4 years.”
He may be right, but we were both a little fuzzy on the facts at this stage to chisel them in stone. All I knew was that our lives were tied up considerably with one another’s in what I think was the first serious relationship for either one of us. I know it was for me; and the fact that we went to different schools made it all the more exciting in my eyes…..and challenging.
We had none of that ‘catching-each-other’s-eye, flirting-in-the-hallway- stuff’ going on. No meeting at our lockers between classes. No stopping off for a soda and fries driving home from school together. None of the traditional adolescent play I had come to know with other boys I dated throughout my high school years.
Fran went to a Catholic boy’s school in a neighboring town and I went to the public high school that was nestled neatly in between the town he lived in and the town I lived in. Spontaneous visits to each other’s house became the norm to make up for not seeing each other during the school day. We had to work at keeping our little encounters, and relied one way or another on a set of wheels to do so. Fran had his own car; but I had to depend on the generosity of my parent’s giving up the family car to my social life. Strangely, I don’t remember their sacrifice ever being a problem. Back then I never questioned WHY it worked; I was only interested in HOW.
So what in the world made him call me out of the blue like this? He had heard about my husband’s death a year and a half earlier through friends, as well as my mother’s passing a year prior to his call. Fran had always felt a fondness for my parents and in fact had helped my mother out with several legal issues over the years. Had the small memorial service we had for my mother been open to include more friends….he would have been there. Even forty-some years after our time together….I know that to be true.
The conversation was amazingly comfortable between us. It didn’t feel like decades of years had passed. It didn’t feel like all those years of living our separate lives had put up any awkward roadblocks for us to hurdle. It felt good. It felt right. It felt slightly insane.
And so…we decided to meet….to reconnect.
He came to my house on an early July evening…right after a busy day of work in his legal offices. I have since come to know that every day is a busy day for him, and that the years as a successful attorney have been good to him. I remember his ambition and energy as a young man just starting out on the road to his chosen career. He was no stranger to hard work. It never entered my mind that he wouldn't do well. Even as young as we were back then, that would be very apparent to me. It would be like betting against Michael Jordan to score in a game.
We both knew that when I opened my front door we would be seeing two very different people than when we were last together. We semi-warned each other in our previous phone conversation. But as he came up the walk to my house, nearer and nearer, all I saw was a twinkle radiating from his eyes…. and that undeniable smile. So many years of living our lives and raising our families….a lifetime away from what we once knew of one another; and all we could see was the warmth in each other’s eyes. All we could feel as we hugged was the overwhelming sentiment; the love and joy of seeing each other again and being able to appreciate it for what it was. The moment was so pure of feeling that we could barely let go of one another.
We found ourselves totally immersed in nostalgic waters for the next 8 1/2 hours....out to dinner and back again. Questions and answers flowing back and forth, unfettered and personal, open and honest. Nothing was off limits…..marriage, divorce, husbands, wives, family, kids, parents, siblings, work, sex, friends and feelings.
We talked a lot about US….back then….and now. I found it very hard to believe that, according to him, he NEVER talked to anyone about these things….not even his two past wives. I was flattered that he was so open with me; but it was hard to believe he couldn’t be that way with others since he didn’t seem to be struggling or felt uncomfortable to do so. I was just as comfortable with him….he made it easy.
All those hours of conversation, igniting fond memories and catching up...and we still weren’t done. We knew that it had to be done in installments. We had pictures to show one another and more revelations to uncover; and before the evening was even over, we were making plans for another one.
Fran must have thanked me half a dozen times for being open enough to let our ‘reconnection’ happen. I hadn’t considered why I wouldn’t have. There were no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives. Well, except that Fran apparently felt he may not have done right by me somehow way back then that resulted in my "dumping him like road kill" as he put it. I laughed and assured him that it just wasn’t true….that he was ‘a good guy’ and a thoughtful and generous boyfriend. The smile on his face said volumes. We were so young and only knew what we knew….that we loved being together. That we loved talking with each other. That we made each other laugh…a lot. And that we didn’t over-think things back then….we just lived in the moment. I felt good about our reconnection and that I paid attention to my instincts from that first phone conversation. And I was right.
We spent a beautiful evening in reflection, realization, gratitude and laughter. Neither one of us had any expectations of how the evening would go. We couldn't have imagined that the years would have allowed us to connect together again in such a warm and heartfelt way. I think we both were a little surprised. It was pure serendipity.
“You haven’t changed at all Joyce. You still sound and act the same and have the same laugh.” (I can think of only three people who still referred to me as Joyce through the years…my mother, my brother, and Fran.)
The one thing that became very apparent to both of us was the beautiful humor we still had with one another. It was untouched by the years. It’s what made that night so special, so comfortable….so easy. It was like we were 19 years old again. It was what we needed to find out about one another; that it wasn’t lost.....and it’s what I believe will keep us connected.