The kids and I were walking through the [name] Cemetery peninsula. We usually hang out by the really old headstones; the ones you can barely read. Some simply say R.I.P. with no name. Once in a while GirlChild will hover around plots that are obviously for babies or children, and she’ll pick weeds or straighten the stuffed animals and tokens left.
BoyChild took off to look at “the shiny graves” – recent additions in the last 10 or so years. I never go to those because they are not historically interesting to me and I don’t want to be skulking around randomly should a mourner come by. This time, we followed BoyChild.
GirlChild and I were picking up trash as we found it. I literally walked around a tree, bent to gather candy wrappers, pointed out a foam cup to be picked up, and straightened face-first into a dear friend’s headstone. A friend I was unaware had died. I started bawling and terrified the kids.
This friend is someone I’ve known for most of my life. Someone with whom I’ve shared pivotal times, important lifetime events. We lost touch as a century slipped away, around the time I was pregnant with BoyChild. But when I moved home in 2007 I tried all the old addresses and phone numbers. Just that week I drove past the family home by chance. The name on the mailbox was different so I’m sure they moved long ago. I wrote a note, reminding myself to look up the mom sometime soon with intention of finding my friend. Two days later I’m standing at a headstone dated 2006.
Every person with whom I was friends, from 4th grade through my first year of college, knows this person was an important part of my life. How is it that no one in 6 years has mentioned this death?
I’ve done some digging around online, found the brief obituary from ’06 and a blurb in a newsletter marking the anniversary in ’10. Knowing this person as I do, I suspect a larger tragedy than simply passing away. I’m purposely being vague with the identity because I want to find out on my own now. I don’t want to say this friend’s name and have someone in town offhandedly remark, “Oh yeah, died in 2006 of ________”, like it was no big deal.
We had a soundtrack, this friend and me. From the moment we met we were musical soul mates. Music was the foundation on which we built a wonderful friendship. While other kids were listening to the Top 40 of the early 80’s, we had The Beatles and The Moody Blues. We’d sit for hours, not saying a word, thumbing through books, just listening.
One September night, in the early weeks after we’d both gotten our driver’s license, I received a phone call.
“Get over here. It’s going to rain soon.”
By the time I arrived at my friend’s home, the dark evening sky was drizzling, wetting the black top of neighborhood roads. Streetlights blurred above us, reflected on the wet of everything around us. We walked late into the night, sometimes talking, mostly silent. When we were drenched and cold began to set in, we returned home, wrapped ourselves in towels warmed by the clothes dryer, and flipped through vinyl and cassettes while Sgt. Pepper, The “Red Album/Blue Album”, A Question Of Balance, Days of Future Passed played. So began a tradition that lasted until I moved away from Minnesota. The rain, the walks, the music.