Tears for an Old Friend

Oct 13th, 2008 by DeeCee | 1


Image by StarbuckGuy

“You should be calling your old friends,” my husband reminded me a couple of times in the days before we loaded up the Buick for a trip south to Fredericksburg. He was right, but procrastination, or maybe premonition, prevailed, and after seven hours on the road, we pulled into the Fredericksburg Hospitality House unannounced and unexpected, except by the front desk clerk.

“I can’t believe that you came down here all by yourself back then!” Gary said after we got settled. By ‘back then’, he’s talking about my decision in 1974 to move three hundred miles from home, leaving family, friends, and familiar surroundings far behind. “You know, I look back and can’t believe it either. It’s not like I was self-confident – pretty naïve and scared actually. I was just really determined to strike out on my own.” I closed my eyes and drifted back thirty-some years.

Three job offers came my way back then from Virginia – hospitals in Staunton, Culpeper, and Fredericksburg all needed a registered x-ray technician. Staunton tempted me with the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafting through much of the area, and small-town Culpeper called out to my farm-girl comfort zone. It was Mary Washington though who closed the deal, the hospital providing me the backdrop for two exciting, first-job, out-on-my-own memorable years. Scenes from those years tumbled around in my mind…

Helping the eighty-year-old woman in the dressing room remove her falsies for a chest x-ray… Buying my first car, a Toyota Corolla and almost crashing through the dealer’s picture window after the test drive… Holding hands with a Route US-1 accident victim who would die before morning from burns too severe to treat… Driving a total stranger home after he crashed into a telephone pole right in front of me because I didn’t want to miss the only horse show I’d ever ridden in… Lecturing the drunken barroom brawler on Christmas Eve about peace on earth as I x-rayed his banged-up body… Holding the money from my first income tax rebate for just a magic moment before giving it up for a friend to get her car out of hock… The ridiculously short white uniforms we wore… The wonderfully mixed-up lives I shared with Beverly, Beulah, Judy, Puggie, Kevin, Hugh, Roger, Miss Redd, Marsha, Linda…

I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Linda. We talked for a few minutes, catching up quickly on what the years have brought our ways. We laughed and swapped memories of long-ago chest x-rays, barium enemas, and hip replacements. “What ever happened to Tommy?” I asked, thinking of our boss at the hospital and a fellow horse lover. “Tommy died.” Linda said, sending a sharp, stabbing needle through my heart before I could even ask how and when. “You know she had those stomach problems…” My tears welled up in instant mourning for a friend, out of touch for years, but still very alive in my mind’s file drawer labeled, “Fredericksburg Adventure.” Ah, Tommy, if only we could talk just one more time, I’d say…

Thanks for taking a chance on a kid from Pennsylvania by hiring me. Please tell your dad that I appreciate his help the night he dug the grave in your hard-as-rocks lawn for my dog, Roentgen, after she was hit by a truck. Remember that trip we took to the horse show at the Meadville Fairgrounds when we slept in the stall and had to use the 16-hole outhouse – wasn’t that great fun? Thanks for taking care of Kapoka for three months after I moved back to PA. I probably still owe you for hay and feed. Do you know that I will miss you, old friend?

Bringing someone special back into our lives isn’t always possible to do, so I will cry for Tommy and honor her by treating others more thoughtfully and with greater care. On the way back to Pennsylvania, Gary and I each made a list of people who are important to us, but who we’ve neglected to keep close. If you have a similar list – people to thank, to forgive, to ask forgiveness of, to reminisce with, to remind that they are important to you – call, write, email, visit. You may not get that chance if you wait too long!

With love and appreciation for the life of Thomas Ann Chapman 1946-1992.

One Comment on “Tears for an Old Friend”


  1. tyler said:

    On that note, I love you Mom – I was proud of you before I was even born!

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