Long Lost Friend

Graduate78“Friday after school”—written in loopy ballpoint pen.

Lisa’s letter was postmarked May 22, 1978. In 18 days I’d be receiving my high school diploma and the summer of ’78 would be officially underway. I’d apparently sent a letter to her days before (unrecorded in the diary), which said, in part: “It’s summer. Thought I’d let you know.”

While far from being summer, it sure felt like it. It was a baking hot spring, and the Navarre Drive-In had already opened. Kids were itching to toss the books and hit the lakeside beaches. Lisa must’ve been feeling it, too. “I don’t know if you’ll understand this,” she wrote, “but I have been so happy lately, and I feel like crying because I love you (and miss you) so much. I’m telling you—[insert Lisa’s trademark nodding wink here]—that line hit me. I want to hug you right now.”

I could’ve used a hug about then. I’d been talking with new sophomore friend Mary Geyen about my crush on her friend Lynn, then finished laying out the school newspaper’s final issue with Harvey, right on deadline. Tuesday night I read Lisa’s letter and wrote in the diary: “I love her with all my heart…”

The letter’s arrival was significant. I’d begun that entry, “Why do I keep feeling like something is gonna happen? It’s just this strange feeling that I’ve been having lately.” It’s not clear if I’d meant positive or negative. Just a hunch that something was up.

By Senior Class Skip Day (where teachers looked the other way while seniors left school for a class picnic), May 26th, I’d neglected the diary for five days, writing again on May 30th. “These are landmark days,” it declares on the 31st, a Wednesday. Dad had left on a weeklong fishing trip. It was cloudy and rainy all day. I’d been sharing some of my short stories with Mary on our talks about Lynn, and she was encouraging. I wanted to ask Lynn to a Kicks soccer game that Saturday and was nervous about her reaction. “Too late,” was my feeling and “too much going on” to believe anything would make a difference.

On June 1st yearbooks made the rounds, classmates’ notes scribbled in the margins, amidst a general sense that the end was near. Graduation ceremony practice went down in the auditorium between first and second periods. While walking out to the bus that afternoon with Mary and Lynn, I asked Lynn to the game. She said she was going to another party. That afternoon I burned off some frustration with Jim Borgheiinck, in town from college, and Harvey, over drinks at my house while Mom was away at work. “I guess you could say I bummed out,” the diary reports. Angry, in fact, so much so that Harvey and I cruised it to Hopkins “to pick up Karen and a friend of hers, Janet…”

Karen? Janet? …What the hell?

So we met up with the girls, drank some beer and made out. At least that’s what I got from the June 2nd entry. The next day, I pretty much put it out there: “I wish I could revive this diary—I’m becoming so careless and languid toward my feelings about this diary—you can probably tell.” What I really needed was the ear of a good friend. A friend like Lisa Tepley.

Tuesday, June 6—last day of high school—followed by two days of final exams. Frustration emerges from the diary pages: “No one has allowed me a comfortable, quiet time to think. I hate this rah-rah environment—so [wish] my monkey mom would get off my nagging back…”

At graduation, all pomp and circumstance. We sat through awards, speeches (class president Jeff Elmer “gave a quite memorable speech on ‘grown-ups’”) and I saw Kim peering through the crowd when I went to receive my diploma. Later, graduation parties—one of which was held at Greg Hartmann’s home in honor of his sister, Denise. Apparently Mr. Hartmann had an open mind and served us drinks, too. The diary reports, “Mr. Hartmann made me a very good dry martini—we…talked about success in the long run of life—in his terms and mine, we came to quite a few good conclusions…”My beautiful picture

While it’s hilarious to consider I even knew what “a very good dry martini” was, the convo with Mr. Hartmann was genuine. I wanted to be an adult. And have conversations with other adults about things like the nature of success.

But having a friend like Lisa was my definition of success. In that letter, the last I ever received from her, she said she and Craig failed to patch it up—but she’d met a new guy, Mark, who was treating her very well. “I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!” she wrote. Her energy bristled off the page. “Mike, I love you and that’s from my heart… I think I found my long lost friend!

“…I hope I never lose him again.”

~ by completelyinthedark on March 8, 2013.

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