“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I turned 50 a little while ago. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me, but my amazing Husband threw me a wonderful party and invited as he said “as many people as you are old!” I had to laugh as he was in that ‘last minute party panic’ and it was supposed to be a surprise. I had easily figured out about the party. You can’t miss some signs when there are just two of you that live and work together, cases of soda we don’t drink, more chips and dips than we can eat show up, and mysterious phone calls. I asked about the soda and was given the response “I have a hankering for something different”. I laughed out loud and so did he. I finally asked what day I had free that weekend, then if I should shower and put on makeup on Sunday. The answer was “you might want to do that”. The main answer was that “nothing” was happening on Sunday. I received a call from a friend on my birthday and I asked them to come by on Sunday because “nothing” was going on that day. I turned to my Husband and asked what time “nothing” was happening and he said “about 2”.
His big surprise was he didn’t tell me who he invited. I knew my Mom and Sister were coming, but didn’t know about anyone else. It was wonderful! It was amazing to see who came to my party. Of course, most were local, but several drove almost two hours or more to celebrate with me. There were unexpected gifts, a “fifty” tiara and beads, a huge cake, and more food than we could ever eat. The women in my Husband’s family couldn’t believe he could pull off this party and have enough food, so they brought extra! We could have fed the whole town! The most precious gifts were the handmade cards by little hands, little origami figures hidden around our house, and most of all the company of the people that attended. It’s unexpected times like those where you can actually see how you have touched people. It was a blessing and filled me with joy.
My friend Charlie McFadden didn’t make it to 50. He lost his battle with cancer Monday at 49. There had been an amazing benefit for him several months ago. I was able to talk to him a bit then, but there were so many people there and not the place to catch up. I didn’t follow up much after that, hoping to hear on Facebook how he was doing well. He went back to work and seemed to be doing well, but then the cancer became stronger and he started to deteriorate. I was going to stop in a visit with him while I was at home for my Sister’s birthday at the end of August. I was so looking forward to seeing him again, but alas, time was not to permit it. He had started going downhill fast and was unable to have visitors. I felt so selfish, thinking I was taking up precious family time to come by and try to make up for time I should have taken over the years to be a real friend.
I met Charlie the first day of first grade. We were a small school in Cooks Mills, Illinois, housing six grades in three rooms. There were little more than a dozen of us in first grade and that was the core of my school world until high school graduation. At graduation, our class size was near 400, but there was always a special bond with that first grade class. At our class reunions, as many, the group is much smaller as the years go by, but our core group seems to try to attend. In fact, our last reunion was held by one our group at their home/horse arena. Facebook has brought many of us together again and we had a reunion of our middle school group, when we all went to Humboldt School. I got to see Charlie then, but didn’t visit as long then.
My last memory of really getting to visit with Charlie was at the last class reunion. We were able to sit and visit for quite a while. That was wonderful. It was like we had never been apart. I don’t know what reaction other people had with him, but for me, Charlie was like a warm blanket. When I was around him, I just relaxed immediately, I never felt judged or looked down upon, just accepted and always happy to be with you. He was one of those rare people where I could have sat with in silence and never felt an uncomfortable moment. Charlie was special to me even though we never had much to do with one another in high school and didn’t see each other after high school until maybe 20 some years afterwards. Now he is gone.
Maybe it is age that pulls your thoughts back to the people you knew early on in your life. Those people had an impact on who you are today, how you accept people, deal with life, and feel about your life now. I will always call those people my friends, even if we never speak again. I’m so glad Charlie had the opportunity at his benefit to feel the love I felt at my “Nothing”. I can almost imagine the overwhelming feelings of awe and love that he must have felt at that event. I missed my visit, but there will be plenty of time for that later. Until then…