Knocking On the Door

It took me several days.  Days of mulling over the what ifs and the if onlys and the why the hell nots.  I looked through the window online a few more times, trying to envision my friend Dennis and what his life would be like now.  He’s older, of course.  Would he have grandchildren?  I was sure he’d retired from teaching already, and clearly was making music in a band.  But what else?  What else?

I went back and reread all of what I’d written about him here, trying to form in my head his possible responses if he heard my voice on the other end of the phone.  In every case I couldn’t imagine him not wanting to catch up or talk to me; we’d left things on very good terms.  In fact, truth be told, it has been me all these years that has stopped keeping in contact;  I guess I had never been quite sure how to merge a part of my former life into the new one I was trying to build for myself.  My marriage, my pregnancies, my children….did I really want to muddle that all up with someone whom I’d loved once upon a time?

But then I realized, the love part of it, the romantic love part of it, was only a small piece of the puzzle.  If the puzzle was the entirety of what Dennis had meant to me and his place in the story of my life, the part where we were involved with each other was just the top right corner.  The rest of it was a wonderful care and concern of a man who saw a young girl in harm’s way and did a million little and not so little things to make sure that harm didn’t take her into its dark being.  He held my hand as I cried over my absent father, my abusive brother, my crushing insecurities and my suicide attempt.  Later he offered a shoulder as I navigated becoming a single mother at age 19 and my mother’s cancer at age 21.  I wondered, sometimes out loud to him, what on earth he received on his end of the relationship; it felt often like I was taking, taking, taking.  But somehow, he never made me feel anything less than a valued friend, a person important to him in the most equal sense.

And when I added all of those things up, I couldn’t think of any reason not to open the door.  So yesterday afternoon, with my heart racing, I picked up the phone and dialed.  He answered the phone, and it felt as if the 13 years we hadn’t spoken to each other hardly existed.  The conversation was easy and genuine, the casual back and forth banter that I had always loved between us.  My curiosity slowly ebbed as he talked about his life since we’d last been in touch.  He admitted to thinking of me and consulting Dr. Google as well when his questions had reached a critical level a few years back.  His chuckle at hearing about my Rick Springfield adventures sounded exactly the same as it was twenty five years ago when he read the essays I wrote about that far away rock star.  “I wasn’t at all surprised to find that you’d found a way to him,” he laughed.

An hour and twenty minutes later, I looked at the clock and realized it was likely time for me to hang up and let him get on with his day.  After all, my children would be home soon and there was plenty I needed to do as well.  We exchanged email addresses and promised to connect in person the next time I go out to visit my family.  Just like that, the conversation ended, and I went about my daily tasks of children and cooking and chauffeuring as if nothing had changed at all in the world.

But something is different, of course.  Something is very different.  A piece of my former life, the person I used to be, a piece that had long since gone missing and left a tiny hole in me, was put back in place.

It feels good.

I’m glad I knocked on the door.

 

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