Sometimes we turn a page in our lives, and sometimes we start a new chapter. At just a few points in life we realize that we are now leaving "Part the Second", for example, and entering "Part the Third". This awareness, it seems to me, is one of the few benefits of getting older.
Last evening my wife and I had dinner with an old college roommate that I had not seen in fourteen years. We were more than just roommates, we were very good friends and after we graduated we were on-the-road travelling companions for a short while until our new-found freedom took us separate paths. We connected here and there over the ensuing thirty-four years. Occasionally he would call on our mutually shared day of birth. The phone would ring, and I would answer and hear his voice singing, "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you."
I remember my friend telling me in 1980 with a twinkle in his eyes, as we considered what we might do after completing our college studies, "you know it's like John Lennon wrote: life is what happens to you while you are making other plans". I think he kind of got it, even as a young twenty-two year old. It really didn't resonate with me, other than as the kind of phrase that sticks with you for some reason.
We met in NYC for dinner. My wife and I were in town for our daughter's graduation and we had an open evening. My friend lives just outside the city in NJ so he drove in with his wife. The three hours were just barely sufficient to get a sense of the way that our lives had "happened".
He lost his first wife to cancer about seven years ago. They had four beautiful children together. I had been able to meet her a couple of times. They were living on the West Coast and back then I did some business travelling that took me out there. That job changed and the trips west stopped and we lost touch. He told me that a few months after his wife passed he was crossing the street in a crosswalk and someone ran the light and hit him. It was a hit-and-run. His left leg was broken in five places, but fortunately that was the extent of the damage. It was a rough stretch with four kids to care for and being laid up.
Now he has a "blended" family with his current wife and her two from her first marriage plus the youngest from his first marriage. Of course, life being what it is, the couple was blessed with a new baby three years ago. I thought about that as our youngest just finished college...about having a three-year old to raise. That is a lot of "happening".
I couldn't share too much of the course of my life in the time we had together. My major events haven't been so much external events but the kind of thing that sometimes happens in mid-life that forces one to descend and then, with time and grace sufficient, re-emerge as someone somehow different yet familiar. It was easier to share stories and pictures about the kids.
These kinds of encounters don't happen often enough, it seems. Maybe that's what makes them special. I hope that we don't wait another fourteen years before sharing what has happened to us while we were making other plans.