My friend Violet Garrison of Cortez died last month. Most of my readers
never heard of her, although she was very active state-wide in
educational and senior citizen issues. She was one of the very few
people living who knew who I was during my college years. There were
four of us who were close friends during those exciting years in
Boulder, and who kept in touch with Christmas cards and occasional
letters and phone calls through all the years since.
Dorothy ended up in California, Louise in Albuquerque, and Violet
settled in her husband's home town of Cortez. She stayed there, even
after he was killed as a young man in a jeep accident.
Ten years ago the four of us met for a long weekend at Vi's cabin on the
Dolores River and sat around the fireplace -- four little old women in
their seventies-- in pajamas and slippers reliving our college years -
and catching up on all that we have lived through since.
College friendships are very special. Although I had not seen Vi for a
number of years, the loss is real. But when I heard she was gone I
started remembering us as we were then - young and intense and full of
fun and energy and enthusiasm. Except for the young part, we had pretty
much stayed that way.
Loss is a part of life. Judith Viorst says in her book, "Necessary
. . . we cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to
loss. And we cannot become separate people, responsible people,
connected people, reflective people without some losing and leaving and
Last week I was talking to a friend of mine and he said that when he
was six his puppy died. For a few seconds this big, mature man was six
years old again. He said that he cried for two years and he still
remembers loss of that puppy.
I knew loss the day my last "baby" climbed on a plane and headed for
college. I stood there clinging to the wire fence at the old Walker
field and watched the plane disappear. Probably I stood there until it
landed in Los Angeles.
I used to go to see Ronald Reagan movies when both of us were a lot
younger. He was always a handsome hero, and usually and a ridin',
tootin', shootemup cowboy. I didn't like him as President, but I share
the nation's feeling of loss at what has happened to him now. His
daughter Patti recently said that his eyes still sparkled, maybe not as
brightly as before but brightly enough. He actually winked at her.
"I've missed that wink. I grew up with it. It says, 'Come on, don't
take life too seriously.'"
Several of my friends have lost their eyesight while still in their very
active years. The thought of never being able to watch a sunrise, or
look at the mountains, or see a daughter's beautiful face is almost
impossible to imagine, but they are moving on and facing loss as best
I became an orphan at 63. When the first shock wore off I realized
what had really happened to me. There was nobody left who had known me
all my life. My parents were gone and it was up to me now. That is a
different loss than any other, but most of us go through it eventually.
I lost another friend last month when Edna Anderson died. When we met
several years ago she told me that the radio program I had back when we
were both young mothers had helped her through those busy days. In our
later years her graciousness and elegance helped me through mine. As
the current phrase says, What goes around comes around.
All our relationships are very special - marriage, our children, our
friends. And we cannot open ourselves up to having them without
accepting the risk of loss. But according to Viorst, human growth is a
series of losses and subsequent gains as we continue to reach out.
So my friend Vi is gone. But I have made a new friend. When her
daughter, whom I have never met, called me from Cortez to tell me about
her mother we formed an instant bond. The circle is not really