LOOKING FOR AN OLD FRIEND

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

          Flag’s down. The mailman was here. Maybe I’ll hear from Jackie…. I thought back to the letter I’d sent her nearly a month before.

That envelope also contained a 1959 photo of four Goshen, Indiana girls in our GGTG high school sweatshirt club. She was one. I wanted permission to use the picture in my upcoming book, An Accidental Pilgrimage.

 Jackie is on the lower left.

Jackie is on the lower left.

Before writing her, I tried calling Jackie’s number listed in our 45th Class Reunion booklet from 2007. No answer. No option to leave a message.

Maybe she’s abandoned her land line for a cell. Not sure how to find a cell number! Guess I’ll mail her the chapter.

I stuck a pink Bonsai tree stamp on the envelope. Will Jackie know my writing? I decorated the address side to make the envelope look special. I want to be sure she opens this!

I picked up the mail and glanced through it, stopping when I spied the fancy envelope with Jackie’s name and address. Oh-oh! Its yellow postal sticker read, “FORWARD TIME EXPIRED TO SEND.” Now what?

My high school friend did not attend the 2007 reunion. No one had said much about her. I did hear her father died and she was too ill to return for the funeral.  Not long after-ward her husband also passed away.  Grieving, sick and away from home… Jackie must have felt very alone. I mulled over how to reach her and decided to call another GGTG.

 Linda was part of a team preparing our 50th reunion. Maybe she’ll have a new address or phone number.

Jackie (second from right) and the girls.jackie2

As I hunted Linda’s number and placed the call, I pictured a slumber party in 1960.

When I asked Linda for Jackie’s new address, she paused. “Gol’ kid! Guess you didn’t know… Jackie died two years ago.”

Now it was my turn to be silent. Dead? How could that be? I feel her alive-ness!

Linda continued, “No one had seen her in a while. She lived out East.”

Finding my voice, I explained why I wanted to contact Jackie. I asked, “Didn’t she have a brother? “

“Yes. Tom. He lives here in town.”

“Can you look him up in your phone book for me?”

In terms of obtaining permission, when a pictured person is deceased, protocol is to call a family member and ask their OK. I remembered Tom as Jackie’s “stern older brother” who guarded his

sister from guys he thought “unworthy” and activities he deemed “inappropriate.” I had mixed feelings about calling him but forged ahead.

He answered the phone and I explained who I was and why I was calling. Put at ease by his friendly manner, I ventured, “I’m sad to hear Jackie passed away.”

Tom waited a beat and said, “We were surprised by her sudden death. That week, I was worried about her and had phoned all one day. The next day I tried again. When I could not get her the third day, I called the police.

They found her …” His voice dropped away. “She’d been gone a few days. We don’t know exactly what happened, but she died in bed of an apparent heart attack. ”

Silence filled the phone line. Quietly I said, “I’ll always remember Jackie’s laugh and contagious grin.”

Tom went on, “Know the cemetery on Berkey Avenue? She’s buried there. My wife and I purchased a new villa a few years ago. When I stand on my back deck, I can see her headstone through the easement between our yard and the cemetery.”

I saw it in my mind and swallowed hard. Jackie is home again–in Goshen, near people who love her.

My own intended gravesite lies just south of Goshen. Someday I hope to rest near home, too.

Frances Fritzie

2 comments to LOOKING FOR AN OLD FRIEND

  • Connie Slyby

    Who is Jackie – I can’t recall a Jackie in our class.

  • caroline farney

    I read your book while visiting my daughter, you,Christine Clifford in Gainesville–I knew you were her friend and she has very good judgment so I felt I knew you, too, She just sent me your website, I really enjoyed the articles and comments.. and want to say thank you from Christine’s Mom in Portsmouth, Ohio!

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