The following is a "message" that, Mary Rogers, my best friend all through middle school and high school wrote and posted on Facebook for all our friends to see.
Over a year ago I went on a trip with family to see family. Part vacation, part obligation -but in a good way. After several days of going to every museum and an' important' house in the area (plus eating $24.00 salads for lunch) I was ready for a change. "Look, I have never been to this part of the country before, let's do something touristy. Find some really tacky fun thing to do that is really LOCAL." My family said okay and after pouring over many brochures I found just the place. So we drove out to the middle of nowhere and had a ball. Tourist trap city. I knew I was being shown a caricature of historic events, (reality be damned!) but it was great.
As we sat at a picnic table eating some lunch I was struck by a very powerful feeling that I was sitting where someone that I loved had sat. That I was exactly where they were and had been happy. Being a reasonable person I thought 'Mmmm...no. No one I know has ever been here. I would have known about it." That little voice we all have told me no. Okay someone that I haven't met yet,maybe? "No. Someone who is very important to you." I decided that there wasn't much point in trying to figure it out. That maybe I should just sit still and take in the gorgeous scenery and be glad that they had had a good day there too. I hoped that someday the mystery would be resolved.
All throughout middle school and high school Sandy Bolton was my best friend. Almost all of my significant memories from that time in my life featured Sandy. Jammed lockers? Check. SAT Saturday? Check. Boyfriend drama? Check. Maybe possibly breaking curfew and getting drunk on a disgusting combination of Coca Cola and Cherry Vodka? Che--No comment.
Sometimes the people who have had a profound impact on your life don't stay in your life. It's not your fault. It's not theirs. It just happens. Sandy was supposed to go to Hanover when I did. We even got assigned to the same room in Ide Hall. It was going to be a 4 year extension of all of the fun we'd already been having. Sandy had a change of heart and decided to go to Franklin College instead. I was disappointed, but not upset. Whatever she needed to do was okay with me. Eventually she left Indiana and lived "out West" somewhere. We wrote a few times, there was a phone call or two, but we were doing what people in their 20s were supposed to do. Changing jobs and changing residences as opportunity or foolish desire dictated.
I didn't know where Sandy had landed or what her last name was, but thanks to the miracle of the modern age and Facebook, Sandy found me. My joy at reconnecting with the great friend of my youth was quickly tempered when I learned that her husband, TJ, was seriously ill with cancer. Sandy pointed me to the blog she had been keeping during his treatment. My hopes for a favorable outcome faded as I read the posts. TJ lost his fight on October 25th, 2009.
I couldn't and still can't quite to come to terms with Sandy being a widow at our age.
I wanted to write to her and let her know how badly I was hurting for her, but I couldn't find an address. There was no way I was going to do something as inappropriate as sending an e-mail. I couldn't stand the thought and let the note go hoping that some of the friends we had and have in common could provide me with a mailing address.
Finally on December 31st I couldn't ignore the little voice that kept telling me to write anyway for another moment.. Medium be damned, it was the message that counted here. It was far worse to let Sandy be out there somewhere in the world thinking that I didn't care that her life had fallen apart.
I wanted to spend a minute finding out a little bit about TJ before I wrote my words of condolence. Through a series of previously unexplored links on her blog, I was able to see a few hundred photos of Sandy and TJ on Flickr. It seems that for sixteen years this man had given Sandy the life she had dreamed out loud about when she and I were 13. There he was, a handsome cowboy who lived on a ranch. Complete with all the horses and dogs in middle school Sandy's fantasy.
I laughed even as tears filled my eyes. How strange life is. Joy and sorrow in what she had and what she lost...all in the same moment for me as I came late to their love story.
I kept flipping through the photos until I saw the one that I knew instantly I was meant to see.
There was Sandy and her beloved TJ sitting at the same picnic table at the same tacky tourist trap in the town of Goldfield, Arizona. I understood then just how happy she had truly been.
Yes, above is the picture she was speaking of. But most importantly is that TJ did give me the life of my dreams and I told him this frequently. When I would tell him how grateful I was for my dream life he would smile that huge smile of his and laugh at me....I only wish he would have seen this "message" from Mary to know that I was telling him the truth.
I got what I wanted in my life. I may not have it now and I doubt I will ever have it again. I do know how lucky I was to have it as some never do get to live the life they dreamed of as a young girl.
See TJ, I told you.....