Friday, November 25, 2011

In the blink of an eye

My alma mater, Northern Arizona University, offered an alumni database CD a while ago. I support my school, and although I was not particularly interested in the CD, I ordered one. It took a few months, but I finally started expIoring it. I was surprised to see that a buddy, Jay, with whom I’d lost touch after graduation, had moved to his family’s ancestral hometown in Missouri. On a whim, I called.
What a conversation! But not with him, but rather with his amazing daughter. Had I a daughter, I would hope for a daughter like her. She was articulate, worldly, literate, confident. She lives in New York City and works as a teacher  the New York Public School System in Harlem. In Harlem! She had read all the feminist authors of my generation: Adrienne Rich, Ana├»s Nin, Betty Friedan. She was strong and analytical. Truly, I was impressed beyond measure away by this self-possessed woman. We spoke for more than two hours. She sent a family photo. (Jay had not changed a bit.)
She seemed to romanticize those early 1980s college days, just as I remember romanticizing my Aunt Rosalie’s college experience in hours poring over her yearbooks. (On the streets of New York, as a child, I once recognized one of classmates from her yearbook photo.) I mentioned the motorcycle and and old light-green station wagon. He still had that car!
In college, Jay was what would now be called a geek, a nebbish: a skinny computer science major wearing clothes a bit too large, riding around on a motorcycle. But oh, that motorcycle! The only time in my life I’d traveled 90 mph on a wheeled vehicle was as a passenger on that motorcycle. He hailed from a small town in southern Arizona, raised with his ne’er-do-well sister by his widowed Mom. The love of his life was a Thai exchange student at his high school.
One summer Jay and I (along with his sister) were housemates while he and I worked as summer interns. We remained buddies through four years of college.
Fast forward. Jay had married that Thai exchange student, and they were the parents of that amazing daughter and a son! I was so happy for him that his dream of marrying the love his life had come true. But then, sadness. They were in California, their daughter said, visiting Jay’s best friend, she probably for the last time together. She had late-stage cancer and did not have long to live.
In the blink of an eye.

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