I met an old roommate yesterday outside a home-junk chain store. We see each other now and again, but never have enough time to do more than laugh over a few memories. We laughed a LOT this time. So much so that eventually discussion of my hiking plans for Sunday and the location of her home (at the base of a mountain) was kismet.
It was a foggy day at the top of Mt. Abe, but the woods were beautiful. The rocky trails dripped greenly with moss and ferns, the air was clear and cool and wet. We spent only enough time at the summit to chug some water and toss some gorp into our mouths - it was too cold to hang out. Our descent was hard on the knees, but like the hike up, good for conversation. We talked about old friends and acquaintances, we caught up on the 16 years between that first year of college and our lives now.
We talked about work and relationships, about biking cross country and divorce. She admitted that she liked the feel of yarn in her hand, and lamented that she could not just hold it and will it into a sweater. Apparently a knitting friend has been working at her (a bit unsuccessfully). We both share the experience of learning crochet from our mothers while also being in tears over the learning process. If she likes to hold the yarn... it's only a matter of time...
We talked about an old dormmate, one Sean O'Flaherty Fahey who was, in his first year at school, quick with the sarcastic quip and smug smile. He was one of those folks who poked at our fresh college shells with sharp and sometimes painful wit. Often we snapped back in defense, sometimes we had good conversations. We wondered, during our hike, what had become of him. Google provides the answer - after three engineering degrees and a rich life of educating himself about the things he loved, he died surfing on a beach in California a winter ago. I was dumbstruck. The article in the California paper was quite well written - thoughtful and reflective about Sean as a person. I read it and felt I was experiencing statistics happening, both at the personal and objective level. These things happen to the people you know, and you might never learn about it. I'd been imagining Sean's life still in progress, full of quirks and quips as ever. I'm saddened that that is not the case.
I'm delighted that my roommate and I found each other again. While I needed ibuprofen and a hot shower after the hike, I enjoyed it immensely. My friend is simple and honest company, a woman with a large heart and an easy laugh. Maybe I'll teach her to knit, maybe not. We'll certainly be spending more time together, and I know I'll be able to talk with her about the strangeness of rediscovering old friends - those you can spend time with and those you can not.