Over The Moon

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Image by Amanda McConnell from Pixabay

I’m a firm believer in asking for what you want.

That wasn’t the case when I was a child. Experience had taught me that to ask for anything was pretty much a guarantee of failure, and that one had to take what Life threw at you because you could not influence the world around you.

How screwed up is that?

It took me a long, long time to break free of that early training. Now I subscribe to the attitude expressed so well in writer Hilary Mantel’s book Wolf Hall – “Don’t ask, don’t get.” The worst anyone can say is “no,” right? Embracing this ideal has earned me any number of rejections, but I’ve also had breakfast with science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine Crook de Camp (a shout-out to Larry Tetewsky for being the one brave enough at the time to ask them to join us; a lesson I took to heart), and dinner with writer Harlan Ellison. That willingness to ask questions (“If I were willing to do an entire manuscript re-write, would you be willing to look at it?”) put my foot in the door at Ooligan Press, and look where that’s landed me: ELEPHANT SPEAK debuts on March 3!

So it’s worth asking the universe for things and then, when you can, putting into motion actions of your own to get what you want.

A week ago, I posted about the house I grew up in, and mentioned my first best friend, David Micklas. Writing about him prompted a desire to find him. What I found was his mother’s recent obituary, which mentioned the town in which he lived. So I looked him up on line, wrote a letter including my email address, mailed it, and crossed my fingers.

This morning, I woke to an email from David. In it, he mentions driving past our old property whenever he and his wife would visit the area, and that he always would remind his wife  about his “first best friend who lived there” and how much he regretted letting a group of new-to-the-neighborhood boys influence him into dropping our friendship because he shouldn’t be playing with a girl.

He wrote: “I was young, stupid and really wish I could have been strong enough to not be influenced by their teasing. I missed playing with the plastic farm animals, making home made greeting cards and selling them to neighbors (glitter and glue was our secret seller). Riding our bikes down Plant Rd. to visit that horse (was it Prince?) I don’t remember. Visiting Mr. Plant and eating raw onions from his garden. I recall playing “Scare Crow,” that was on The Wonderful World of Disney. Do you remember that or did I dream this? Lol. Anyway, thanks to you, it really helped me develop using imagination and creativity that has come in handy for so many years. For all of that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart [and] felt compelled to make sure you understood how important you were to me, way back then and how your friendship will never be forgotten.”

Who says you can’t go home again?

 

Serendipity

little-meYesterday I wrote about the house I grew up in and I mentioned a childhood friend, David Micklas. While working on that piece, I went online to do a bit of research to see if I could find out something about the old house.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but in the course of my search I discovered an obituary for David’s mother, Theresa. It saddened me because she was a nice woman who (unlike her husband) tolerated her son having a girl for a best friend. In some ways, she was a second mother to me, and I always felt welcome in her home.

Finding this obituary right on the heels of having mentioned David for the first time in, well, forever, felt like a tap on the shoulder from Theresa because contained within the heartfelt tribute was mention of her three sons (Tom, Bob, Dave), their families, and where they live.

A further bit of searching brought me David’s street address. Last night I sat down and penned a letter to my old friend, reaching out through better than…well, I’m guessing here, but I think it’s been close to 50 years since we last spoke. I acknowledged that this would be a surprise (hopefully not an unpleasant one), and offered my condolences on his mother’s death. I briefly caught him up on my life, but mostly I wrote to let him know that he was on my mind and remembered most fondly, that I cherished our time together as friends.

I’m curious to see if I’ll get a response, and if so what sort. Stay tuned.

When It’s Best to Say No

img_0567I consider myself a pretty friendly person. I’m the sort who, when meeting someone new, prefers to view them as a potential friend than a possible enemy. I welcome strangers to my table and find nothing awkward in telling people to “scootch up” and make room for another chair. Being an introvert I can’t say I enjoy crowds, but put me one-on-one with someone and I’ll at least try to hold up my end of the conversation.

Several months back, maybe as much as a year, I met this woman I’ll call “Jill” while walking with Holly on the Airline Trail. I’d seen her before; we’d make eye contact, nod, maybe say hello. Occasionally, she’d stop to admire Holly and give her a pat. Little by little, we came to know each other a bit, exchanged names, that sort of thing. Eventually, we shared phone numbers with an idea toward meeting to walk or bike, both of us eager for company. Jill was recently retired (she was a college phys ed teacher), outdoorsy like me, and loved animals as I do. We both had “issues” with our birth families and step-children which we shared and laughed over. I really felt that I was making a friend.

Then it happened.

See, Jill has some fairly significant health issues, particularly with her spine. One day, as we walked, she mentioned some difficulty she was experiencing and I suggested she look into equine therapy. I worked at a therapeutic riding facility for several years and I’ve remained enamored of the field and the good–sometimes the miracles–that occur between horses and riders. It’s pretty astonishing stuff.

To my horror, Jill hunched over like a crone and began to do a sideways crab-walk, her fingers curled into claws. “I don’t want to ride with a bunch of retards,” she said.

I blurted, “JILL!” She laughed, like it was the biggest joke in the world. And me? I was speechless. I couldn’t find the words to convey my disappointment in her…and in me for not speaking up. Something inside told me she wouldn’t care, anyway, that she’d make some excuse or brush it off as a joke (sort of like that TSA employee who recently flicked the braids of a Native woman and said, “Giddy-up!”), and I let that “something side” keep me mum.

But it’s never left my mind, and I haven’t seen Jill since. Granted, she has some weird sort of schedule and it seemed to always be me making the overtures to meet-up, but I’ve maintained radio silence. Recently, she sent me a text indicating she’d like to get together. I didn’t respond because I was headed out of town for several days. Now that I’m back, I’m not sure I’ll respond in any case.

That “friendliness gene” in me says to give her a second chance, to get together and explain that if we’re to be friends, she needs to understand how badly her words upset me. Maybe I’ll learn that it was a foolish moment, words uttered and regretted instantly (although she gave no indication of that; rather the contrary). We’ve all said things we regret, all made first impressions we wish we could erase, all dreamed of do-overs. On the other hand, if that cruel remark is a clear indication of who Jill truly is (and based on some of her other comments, I have no reason to think otherwise), she’s not the sort of person I can consider a friend.

This is not a question of ideology; of me thinking I’m better than someone else or wanting only friends who mirror my beliefs. I love intelligent discourse when both parties believe differently, and I can “agree to disagree” when need be. (Case in point, I have a cousin who refutes evolution. I don’t agree with him, but I still love him.) Maybe this thing with Jill hit me so hard because I’ve worked with those riders and gotten to know them as they struggle with their disabilities. I met some who others might classify as “vegetables” and come to understand their beautiful and subtle way of communication. And I have family members, people I respect and love, who battle similar challenges every day. Would Jill decline to ride with them?

I suspect so, and it makes me wonder what sort of teacher she was given her inability to accept and embrace those with challenges. Were her own athletes so physically perfect? Should people look down at her because of the issues with her spine? Perhaps her own unhappiness with her back is the source of her bitter remark, a realization that occurs to me only now. Perhaps a text is in order, and invitation to coffee and conversation.

We shall see.