We sit around the patio table in the bright sunlight,
Friends since our teens.
Since our last meeting, I have lost my father,
Rick and Sue have become grandparents,
And Joe has suffered the ultimate loss
Through the death of his daughter Emma,
After an hour of light-hearted conversation
We head into the house to fill our plates
With sandwiches and fruit and vegetables and cookies,
Deciding to go back outside to eat as the sun has shifted,
The shadow of the trees cool the yard, and the open space
Is safe and ripe for sharing.
The conversation has shifted from light-hearted pleasantries and
Tales from high school to more personal, current stories of our lives.
I speak of my husband, retired from work but always busy volunteering
And my son, ready to begin his senior year of college.
I speak of my father who I lost and my mother who is lonely.
Rick and Sue speak of their girls who are grown and starting
Families of their own.
They have grandchildren now--grandchildren!
They say it feels strange but wonderful at the same time.
Rick has lost his mother, and Sue’s dad is not in the best of health,
But the focus of their stories is on their family and the new puppy
Who scampers at our feet.
We start to notice the darkness creeping in, check for texts from
A few others who were going to try to stop by, and grab another bottle of water.
Joe begins to talk about his kids--Raymond who will be a sophomore in high school
And Emma who left this world too soon.
He speaks of his wife and how deeply their loss affected
Her ability to function for several months,
And the lines in his face appear deeper in the approaching darkness.
We listen, really listen to one another, and in that safety of true friendship
With no judgement our conversation converts to religion and politics,
The two things we are taught to avoid.
We all want to believe in a higher power, but we find the institution of
Religion gets in our way.
As the topics get darker, so does the night, and soon we realize that it’s almost midnight
And we’ve been sitting, talking for seven hours.
It feels more like one.
We say we should get going, groan as our middle-aged knees and backs
Slightly revolt from many hours of sitting
And hug one another promising to do this again soon.
As I recount our conversations on the way home
I smile and I cry and I laugh and I tear up.
The bonds of true friendship run deep,
No matter how long between meetings.
These are my people.