Old Friends

As promised, I’ll take a few lines and talk about what made me so happy a week ago Friday.

Take a journey with me in the WABAC machineΒ to a time before there was Internet in people’s homes… a time when in order to get our online fix from home, most of us had to point our modems either to a locally-run dial-up BBS or to subscribe to a proprietary online service. About my senior year or so of high school, my Mom bought a surplus PC that came with a modem and the software to connect to one of those services, called Prodigy. I somehow ended up talking her into letting me sign up, and probably several times a night, I used to uncoil a 25-foot phone cord to the nearest jack and dial in.

Being from a very rural area my whole life at that point, I loved being able to meet and trade messages with kids in other parts of the country. I even had a map on my wall for a while with a push-pin for each of my new pen-pals. One that I became especially close to was named Catherine and lived out on the west coast. Since Prodigy’s mail facility had limits on how much you could write, we ended up trading a lot of snail mail. I shudder to think how many trees we killed sending letters back and forth. At some point, we both ended up dropping the service, and I went off to college. We kept trading mail, though.

In a lot of ways, Catherine and I at the time lived almost in different worlds… geographically, culturally, and to a large extent ideologically. I was learning to “stretch”, so to speak, but it was a very slow process. One day Catherine sent me a letter at a pretty vulnerable time in her life that in effect asked me to step outside of my comfort zone. In my defense, it was a pretty big step for me, but I dropped the ball pretty seriously. I was scared, and I planted my feet, to continue the metaphor. I said some pretty nasty things, and she felt very betrayed. Our friendship stopped abruptly and bitterly.

Some years later she emailed me offering an olive branch. By that point, all my rancor over the situation was gone, but I wasn’t ready to admit I’d been wrong. I was polite, and we traded a couple of emails, but it was a shell of the former friendship. The emails dropped off pretty quickly.

Those close to me realize that I’ve been big on introspection and self-understanding the last few years. I’ve cleared a lot of cobwebs and learned a lot about myself. I ain’t perfect, and I’m never going to be, but I like to think I’m improving in a lot of ways. A couple of weeks ago, my mind drifted back to a friendship I had long considered lost. I realized I was finally in a place to let go of a lot of the crap that I had put in the way so many years before. I figured I was too late to salvage anything, and I really didn’t know if there was anything to salvage. I decided to give it a try, though. With some creative use of Google and other resources, I managed to find an email address for Catherine. I sent the email on a Thursday night and then figured I was going to be sitting on my hands for a while.

The next morning, a very surprised Catherine sent a quick message (bless you!) saying that she would indeed like to try catching up. It made my day in a way that I felt I had to post about. πŸ™‚ She and I have been catching up for about a week now. Like I said, it’s very much still a story in progress. We’ve both changed a lot over the years, but we’re both having a lot of fun filling in the gap.

So… now you know about the mysterious “Cat” who commented on my last post. πŸ™‚