I was walking out by the river
There for quiet
Quiet and pondering can welcome interruption
Especially when it's an old friend
That I don't get to see too often anymore.
I hear my name being called
Look back to see you running toward me
Telling me how long
You've been trying to catch up
Not quite sure if it was me
"You're thinner than before"
(Why she wasn't sure if it was me or not.
Thank you for noticing
Still far to go)
"Is it because it's hot?
Don't want to eat?
Can't get the food down?"
(Is that really a thing for some people?
Not for me)
I had thought to find a time to tell her
"Can I ask you to keep a secret?"
(It's not 'out' yet)
But yes, I can
She's come to me with secret things too.
I told her of my decision
And the recent journey
Asked about her
Her husband--ptl, they're not finding any more cancer
Her daughter--uni. entrance exams in two days, stress
And she--has had something like anxiety attacks ever since last fall
After her husband's diagnosis...treatments.
Later, she went to use the public toilet, while I waited outside
looking in through the entrance,
I suddenly see her with a questioning look,
Looking up at the sign
Had walked into the men's room...
I wanted to take a picture of her face, her posture
(I'm laughing now)
And suddenly I remembered
Another bathroom picture
Many years ago
I reminded her when she came out
"Do you remember?"
She had dropped something in the squat pot at my house
And somehow I thought it was funny
To take her picture
Playing in the toilet
There she was, telling me not to take it
That I was a brat
But I did
(I think she's shaking her finger at me, and laughing, in the picture)
"What did I drop in there, my phone?"
"What?" I said, "Don't you know, we're old
That was when we were young.
Cell phones didn't exist yet then!"
I don't know what she dropped in there.
I wonder if I still have that photo somewhere
Not too long ago she sent me a different photo
The time I gave her a haircut
Can't believe she let me
I wonder if she liked it!
We parted ways
I got on my bike
She walked back home
And suddenly the memories started
And I wanted to cry
This one is definitely different
All the memories, through the years
with one person
She was a friend from the beginning
Helped me clean the first house
Spent hours there those first days
Helped me find newspaper to line the cupboards
We stood on my desk, moving it around the living room
Stencilling my walls
How many times did she invite me to share a meal with her family
Especially during traditional family holiday times
It was on that first trip to a countryside school
That we discovered a similar sense of humour
We've been kidding with each other ever since
When her daughter was young
And she saw evidence of "crazy"
She had 'proof' her daughter caught it from me
Isn't there a picture of her laying on my bed.
"Don't think so much"
"It sounds like you're wanting to do something bad
you're so nervous about talking to the principal,
but this is good"
I think she helped me design what became my beginning-of-term speech
Trying to figure out how to maintain control
In a class that was more active than they were used to
I attended her wedding
A bridesmaid, actually
I tried to encourage the revellers
To leave their apartment
On their wedding night
No luck, they were there all night
She told me the next day
"Can you pray for me she said"
There in the hospital
Green paste of some sort smeared around her nipples
Concerned for the milk that wasn't coming
The times she want secrets kept
The privilege of being one of the few
Who could share the journey.
Hep C that wasn't responding to medication
But couldn't tell anyone
Worried about the political uproar it might cause
Would folks be worried that she, too,
Would try to get money from the hospital
(the blood buying scandal that made international news)
The incident in the school leadership
She could have been vice-principal
But the false accusations that came
How devastated she felt
And her husband's cancer
Carrying the load of
Travelling to be with him in another province
Then back to teach
And be with her daughter
(last year of high school)
Not telling her daughter what it was about
Not telling his mother
A load to bear
A journey to walk
And yet she's soft, gentle, caring, and fun!
She sees a need and helps
I remembered the time she popped over, saw I was sick asked what she could do
I asked for bananas
She brought them quickly
Was it that time, or another
She brought her mom's chicken soup
("And if you have a chesty cough,
you prepare it by steaming 'the blue part' of the chicken.")
She first introduced me to ginger tea
And she cares about her students
Cares about thinking
Cares to be a teacher that thinks and grows
And yet gets so tired, so bogged down
In a system where most don't.
We started teaching in this school the same year
I left the school six years later
She went on
Became a grade leader--over 100 teachers
Yet had the courage to refuse that
Drop that position
When she could see it costing her mental health
In later years
We don't see each other often
But always, at least on Christmas
Christmas Eve, or before, or later
I'll get a call
She'll pop in
Bringing a Christmas and birthday
Gift and card
And I'll have a Christmas gift and card for her
And maybe her family
I suddenly realized today
Usually I can know I'll see her now and again
And then there is the fullness of the relationship
And all the memories
Soon I won't see her
What will it be like to
Leave the person
And all the memories behind
(Tears falling, again, rolling down my cheeks, over my lips)
I'm not even sure why it's hitting me so hard
Maybe with a combination of other things
(And PMS Ha! :o) )
Ah, but I'm thankful
An early friend
Who did so much
To welcome me
Introduce me to
Ideas, foods, people
Share her heart
Years ago, about 20, I was asked
Maybe it was that she asked me
"How long are you going to stay in Pt?"
Not sure why I gave the answer I did
Who could have known
"I'm going to stay here until your grand child is taking me for walks by the river,
calling me 'Grandma'"
I've thought of that often
She wasn't even dating then
But she did
Then got married
Had a child
The child has grown...
But not yet...it would be at least another 10+ years
Before there is a grandchild to walk by the river
I guess I won't see that day after all
But we came pretty close.
Both of these 'rememberings' (today's, and the "I remember" post) happened on and after a walk on that nice path by the river
The earlier one was many short vignettes, people, students usually,
Known for a shorter time, and a few significant moments coming to mind.
Today's--one person, and our long history. with many, many memories
Twenty-four years since I first met her
I wonder how many different 'flavours' of remembering and grieving I'll taste in weeks and months to come.
I wonder if that river path will become a very special place
Much like the front end of my journey here--how I used to walk back and forth across the 'man xian' bridge.