We don’t call old friends antiques. It might hurt their feelings. We do collect them, at least for a time. The memories of them are lined up on shelves in my mind. Some of them are covered in dust. Because I moved far away from where I spent the majority of my life most of them are beyond my reach. I can not see them frequently and be reminded of their mannerisms and familiar behaviors.
The internet helps take up some of the slack in my memories. Facebook has enabled me to renew old acquaintances. I have a tendency to research names from the past that come to mind. It’s a thrill of the hunt thing, like looking for rare collectibles. When I find some person that I have wondered what became of them I don’t always get in touch. Who am I to intrude on the lives of people who have been busy stemming the tides of life? My own opinion of myself may not be shared by others who I have spent time with.
Sometimes it is just too late to pick up the pieces of a long severed relationship. Through the power of Google I recently traced a friend from the 1970’s era. We lost track of each other a long time ago. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes turned an impressive swath of Central Pennsylvania into a sodden mess. It thereby created summer jobs for idle youth on flood cleanup crews. Gene and I worked together on a crew of boys our own age but with differing attitudes. We were unofficial partners and learned to drive iron rods through railroad ties repairing fish damns on trout streams. You come into an attitude of trust holding an iron rod while your partner swings a sledge hammer at the relatively small target that is the top end of the rod. We already knew each other prior to that summer but our bond was strengthened with each ring of metal on metal.
My friend showed up on a Google search some time back. It turns out that our paths were not unrelated. He had become an antique conservator and restorer. He has worked for an impressive client list and had carved out an excellent reputation in his field. Unfortunately he is also very ill. Time passes for us all. The antique trade can make us fatalistic. We gather the particles of culture unique to our own generation and venerate the dust of the ages beyond measure. In the end “value” is in who we are, not in what we have. That can not be cataloged.
Addendum 3/13/2011: I guess timing is everything. Acting on the contact information I obtained on the internet I emailed my old friend Gene McCall in hopes of making contact. Unfortunately the reply I received was from his wife who informs me that Gene passed due to a brain tumor on March 1st. The intelligent, creative and good humored soul that I remember must have been a blessing to his family and friends. I am sure they have a rich treasure trove of memories to give them comfort. God bless you Gene. Friendship knows no boundaries of time or space.