How do I define old friends? Is it those, like Carmen, who I have known since 1968? That is, by number of years, length of time we have known each other? How many years does it have to be before we can consider this use of “old” as valid?
Or do I qualify the phrase by meaning anyone who is older than I? Perhaps that might be a way to consider, but saying “older” friend would probably convey the same information.
Why all of this ruminating?
I am sitting in a rental car, Rose Hill Memorial Cemetery/Mortuary/etc, in Whittier California. Rather than send you to Maps, let me just tell you it is about 20 miles or so from the Long Beach Airport. At 1400 I will be attending a graveside service for an “old” friend.
Pat qualifies on either or both of the above criteria. We first started working together in Germany a significant number of years before. She had an uncanny ability to quietly explain to those who didn’t want to hear why they were going to do things the correct and proper way. Integrity, the ability to bend without compromise and a quiet sense of humor won her the respect of just about all her colleagues and commanders. Those who couldn’t deal? They learned that Pat taking a stand meant she was firm on unassailable grounds. They also learned to appreciate that the words “I told you so” never, ever crossed her lips.
After I was transferred to the UK in 2009 we kept in touch mostly by email. As like many of us, as we both transitioned into a retirement from US Army employment, those plans to get together were delayed by this, that and the other thing. She moved to Switzerland; I was spending a lot of time on ships.
There is always next week, next month, next year. Right?
We ran out of that opportunity the end of last year. She became ill while visiting family in Michigan; I had classes, exams and meetings. By the time I could get free, she was in hospice.
Pat died yesterday morning. As in normal Jewish tradition, we don’t delay burials. LA because her beloved husband, a Holocaust survivor, was buried here in 1997. Her family will sit Shiva, her sons will say Kaddish.
She will reside in my memory.