Soulmates reach out across
A few, precious people help us make sense of
this unrelenting and mysterious trek toward old age....
in western civilization.
By MARGARET McCOY
Globe and Mail: Friday, April 30, 2004 - Page
I was roaming about the house at three in the morning, waiting for the
chamomile tea to live up to its promise, and trying not to dwell on the horrors
racing through my mind. Late night TV (even more scary than my angst-ridden
thoughts) had no appeal, so I decided to check my e-mail.
The ghost in the machine began to take on a whole new meaning. A number of
messages were from people whose names tickled the edge of my mind. People I knew
in high school, people I hadn't seen or thought of in more than 30 years were
'just saying hi, here's a photograph,' and asking the usual: 'What have you been
up to? Where do you live? Do you still drum?' Drum! I played drums? The messages
evoked pale memories of summer evenings, sitting on the beach and talking over
plans for the future, but I couldn't summon up any specific face or event from
those days. All I remember about that last summer at home is the summer job
(repairing books in the school library), the beach and waiting impatiently for
my solo journey to begin. All of 17, and clothed (as Lynn Emanuel has it) in
"elaborate nonchalance." The cold eye of middle-age sees these friendships as
those of convenience. A group of teens held captive in a small town, making the
best of a stifling situation. These were not the friends of my heart and soul,
and so they faded away.
I did respond with a recap of the past 30 years. Startling, how one's life can
be summed up in a sentence or two, and what a perfect way to attend my first and
last high-school reunion.
The next night, an e-mail with a very familiar name arrived, that of my first
serious love affair. University days, me living in a tiny, third-storey, walk-up
flat. It was November, and I, ever the procrastinator, sat at the kitchen table,
pounding out an essay on my Olivetti at two in the morning, drinking instant
coffee made with hot tap water and chain smoking Rothman cigarettes. I had left
the door open for air and a sense of space, and when I looked up from the page,
a young man in the hall said, "You must be Pegi, I've heard a lot about you. I'm
Andy, the house guest in 7-B." Indeed, Andy, long autumn-red hair, intense
green-as-jade eyes, a great body and a book of e. e. cummings sticking out of
his backpack. Thank you, great goddess. Cute, and likes poetry. I invited him in
for a cup of coffee and we sat and talked until dawn, fell madly in love and
stayed together for a year and a half. Then it ended. Changes, travel and other
agendas. We were 20. I have a photograph. Life unfolded, and we fell out of
touch with one another, but always he remained in my memory in the
The e-mail arrived and it took me three days to open it. Pounding heart, anxious
and excited all at once. Why the anxiety? Haven't a clue, but I read his message
and so many memories came blazing back. We now send e-mails to and fro, talk of
our families, our personal lives, a haiku there, a political petition here. The
bond that we created 30 years ago remains.
But who are we now? A person travels from 20 to 50 and certainly we change. Time
and experience burnish and polish our psyches, hearts and souls to a deep patina
not known in our youth. Yet here is this person who reappears in my reality, and
I feel as if, perhaps, a week has passed since last we spoke. It must be that
the connection we make with certain people over our lifetime is on a much deeper
level than we realize. We have the good fortune to glimpse the soul or essence
of another, and that is what lives in our hearts and memories, making
reconnection easy and natural.
There is also an awakening of a younger self. Up she jumps from the shelf of
Long Ago and tiptoes into this middle-aged life for a good look around. Amused,
a little sad and ever hopeful.
Some think there is a danger in reconnecting with people from the past. One
phone call and poof -- there goes your current marriage. A couple of e-mails and
you're flying off to the long-awaited embrace of a long-lost love. I think not.
Some people connect on a deeper level than the ordinary, but that doesn't mean
that they want or need to live together. My ex-husband and I have remained close
even though, or maybe because, we live 3,000 miles apart.
Though we do share the occasional dinner and monthly phone call, we have no
desire to get back together. But what a warm and lovely place to drop in on once
in a while. We've known one another for decades and we rely on one another the
way old friends do.
The ties we forge with certain people are created around gentleness of soul and
on levels we can barely perceive. Friends come and go, but it is these precious
few from the past and of the present who help make sense of, and give comfort on
this unrelenting and mysterious trek toward old age.
Margaret McCoy lives in West Vancouver.