We stopped in Salinas and spent the afternoon and evening with a veterinary school classmate and his significant other. I’ve known him since 1956 and we’ve probably spent time together less than half a dozen times since we graduated in 1960 but conversation flowed easily enough. He lost his wife to cancer a few years ago so there was empathy for our shared experience, but we didn’t dwell on it.
Several of our veterinary school classmates were Korean War veterans, most of them married, some with children, living in a Veterans Village of Quonset huts and going to school on the GI bill. Sometimes the people, as represented by our government, do something right for everyone.
In those days not only the students were close, the wives formed an auxiliary group and made close friends amongst the other wives. Shared experiences in difficult financial times but with a better future in the offing.
Many of those wives remained close, kept in touch over the years. My experience is that the female of our species is much more efficient, determined and relentless in that pursuit. When we had our fiftieth year class reunion the widow of one of our classmates attended to be with old friends. Two lonely, still grieving people met again and made a connection. They found common interests and now spend some of the year at her home in Nebraska and some of it at his in Salinas California, interspersed with travel for pleasure and enlightenment. I would call them a cute couple but that’s too cloy. They are comfortable together, not afraid to talk and reminisce about their prior lives with their well-loved spouses. Their children and grandchildren are all happy that the couple found each other. They look good, they now look younger than me, and I wish them long and happy times together.
Wolfe and Steinbeck had it correct though, you can’t go back and resume a past life, a past home, a past friendship. As our lives progress we create new lives, new homes, new friendships and the people of our past cannot relate, nor can we relate to their changes.
The three of us talked of our families and listened politely, but with wandering interest, to the achievements of our offspring. After an uninterrupted six hours of sleep in Frog we continued our conversation over breakfast, but I was on a schedule for this part of my journey. My son and his family had set aside time for me in their hectic life and I had to get down the road. Goodbyes come easier for me now, not so important as they once were. Perhaps we will spend time together again before our time is up, perhaps not. If we do find our lives come together again we will pick up comfortably but will be careful to make our time together short enough so the desire to meet, and talk, and catch-up remains.