By Susan Swan
PROMPT—I am grateful for ...
Dear heart friend, lost and found friend,
Over the past fifty years of friendship, I have lost you then found you over and over. At 18, I really did not know anything about depression, but I knew enough to keep trying to get through your locked door. I would plead, yell, then cry in frustration and fear as I banged on the wood barrier. I kept coming back, sometimes several times a day. One day, the unexpected, I heard the deadbolt unlatch. You made me peppermint tea, so dark and strong I couldn’t drink it, although I tried. Our eyes met over the mugs of steam and we laughed. It was so good to see you. I waited while you showered and dressed. Do you remember? We walked down to the old quarry, looking for agates and other forgotten small treasures. It was a glorious spring afternoon, and so quiet. Our sneakers softly kicking at the stones, looking for jewels.
A few years later, you were in a desperate situation in Texas. I didn’t know, I didn’t understand just how dangerous. My letters unanswered for months. That evil man would rip them up unopened, taunting you in his menacing drawl about your “so-called friends.” His words for me, not yours. I didn’t know until much later, after you had escaped with your pregnancy hidden. Because you knew, if he found out, that you would never be able to leave. You took a chance, such courage. You made your way to my tiny Minneapolis apartment. We planned your abortion. I drove you to the clinic. But when I came to join you in the waiting room after parking my car, you had vanished. I searched for hours, left messages with your mother, brother and sister. Finally, days later you called from Florida. Sobbing, you couldn’t do it. You had called another who took you away.
I had lost you again, this time it was three years before I heard from you again. Eventually you married and soon two more children made your family of five. I had moved to Massachusetts while you were moving back to Minnesota. I would seek you out whenever I could, but there were years when you were in Virginia and I didn’t know. I probably had been within ten minutes of you several times. If only I had known you were there.
But then, as our children grew, yours so much faster than mine. The inevitable parting from your husband after stressful moves to Minnesota, Wisconsin and then Minnesota again. Of course, there was his affair, the worst betrayal of your heart and one that you could not get over. You could no longer live with him but the house was too expensive for you to manage on your own. I lost you again.
I have come to understand your demons. The depression, the feelings of hopelessness, when getting dressed was just too much effort. I know your pain and your courage. The challenge has always been to keep you in my life when you could slip away so quietly. Letters returned, “No Forwarding Address.” But now, with texting, I can send you messages of love and hope. I know that you get them. No need to respond.
Susan Swan lives in Massachusetts with Carol Ann, her partner and biggest supporter for 42 years. She enjoys long walks, gardening and any excuse to be outside. Susan writes with a group of women who meet weekly to discuss the art of writing from the heart.