I have a friend I’ve missed talking to, seeing regularly. We worked together for many years and probably would have become good friends but I ended up being her manager and you just can’t be friends with people that work for you. She retired a year ago shortly after her husband died and we promised we’d get together. We meant it.
But you know it didn’t happen.
I’ve thought of her often, mostly when I’m at work where things remind me of her. And I’ve pulled out my cell phone to call her and then thought I’d wait till I wasn’t at my desk, maybe at lunch, or before the drive home. But lunch never happens and by the time I leave I’m so tired I don’t think about anything but the traffic jams waiting for me out on the freeway.
Then this week someone else asked about her, assuming I’d kept in touch, and I made a concerted effort to reach her. As we talked today I wondered aloud how her retirement was going, what she’d been doing, how life was. What was new.
She said she’d renewed her library card, read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, spent time with her grand kids. Slept. All good things.
And then her voice broke and stilled. With a little wobble in her throat she softly mentioned that it had been lonely. Without her husband of so many years, without her friends at work she’d been lonely. Oh she didn’t want to start working again, face the traffic in the mornings, the stress of the industry we’re in, but still…
And I felt terrible. I was supposed to have her over for dinner. I was supposed to keep in touch. And I let it go every day, day after day, while I got sucked into the endless funnel of work and life.
And she’d been lonely.
It’s ridiculous. Me, who knows more than most how short life is, who knows what’s important, let it slide. She’s someone I care about, someone who makes me laugh, someone who was there for me when things were very very bad.
She was lonely. Damn.
We’re having dinner early next week, she and I and a few more people from work who have wondered how she is and have missed her. I can’t wait. She made me laugh this afternoon in the middle of work craziness. Even while I was beating myself up. She’s good like that.
Some lessons have to be learned and relearned. What’s important are the people, not the profit. It’s pretty simple really, but oh so hard to follow through. Lesson learned.