Monday, November 07, 2016

Goodbye to an old Friend

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”John Leonard

I said goodbye to one of my oldest friends on Saturday, a friend I haven’t seen for more than five years. Had I decided to pay her a visit on Sunday, I would not have met her at all.

After driving round and round along the lanes of this unfamiliar housing area we reached her Lorong and found her house. But then my heart skipped a beat because there, parked in front of her house, was a huge container! And just outside her gate was a hillock of boxes and a low cabinet with a broken leg. It looked like someone was packing up to go away and never come back. Or maybe she had left, I thought with a sinking heart. However, there she was, minus her glasses, walking slowly towards the gate and probably wondering who had stopped there.

Google Image

She had been expecting another white car and was surprised when we tumbled out of our car. She smiled and made me feel it was okay not to have told her in advance that we were visiting.

“I'm glad you came today”, she said, “I'm leaving tomorrow.” I guess I'll never see her again and I'm glad I was in time to bid her farewell, this friend with whom I used to share books and plants, recipes and sewing tips, and the ups and downs of my life—as she shared hers with me.

We met, oh so long ago, and discovered we had so much in common: reading, crafting, similar dislikes and both of us having a dreadful fear of the dentist.

I'll never forget that first visit we went to the dentist together. I took 3-year-old Dottie along too so Dr Yong could check her still perfect baby teeth and there'd be no need for any painful treatment and she'd have a pleasant memory of her first visit. We, my friend and I, were more than a little scared and nervous. As we climbed up the stairs to the dental clinic, we frightened ourselves with thoughts of  all the horrifying things the dentist could do to our teeth. If only we could turn back and retrace our steps home! Then we were at the clinic. Light was coming in through some windows. The dentist appeared and announced:“No electricity!”

A blackout? Oh how happy we had been! What joy! I know we were foolish but we were really overjoyed to have the torture postponed to another day.

Then there was our fondness of... of all things... copper tooling! We went to town to look for the materials for our project and found time to do our copper tooling pictures during our free periods. When our copper pictures were completed we took the copper sheets to the frame shop for framing and were secretly pleased and flattered when the frame shop people thought we were university students! (I was an ancient 29-year-old but she was several years younger.)

Another thing we both disliked was driving. It used to make her so nervous that even when she had bought her first car she left it at home and took the bus. I did the same thing—took the bus to town to avoid the hassle of looking for parking spaces.

She was my passenger when my car was hit by a jeep coming out of a side road. The impact made my car spin and we landed on the other side of the road facing the way we came from. She was able to recall the details of this incident—light rain; I was driving slowly, having shifted to a low gear; the jeep had stopped as we were approaching the side road and suddenly shot out of it when we were passing.

We were also crazy about gardening—crazy enough to go round the still uninhabited, undeveloped areas in Kapayan/Penampang to collect buffalo dung to use as fertilizer. I can’t recall now what we had planted but I clearly remember the dung collecting.

It seems a long time ago we went our separate ways—she was transferred to another school while I stayed behind. But we continued to be friends despite separated by distance and long periods of silence. We remained friends despite the cracks that appeared due to lack of communication. Our friendship is like an untended garden with more weeds than flowers but it is still a garden. We may have grown apart but in my heart I have only good wishes for her. So, goodbye my old friend and take care…

It well may be,
That we will never meet again,
In this lifetime.
So let me say before we part,
So much of me,
Is made of what I learned from you.
You'll be with me,
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have re-written mine,
By being my friend... 

-- Stephen Schwartz

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