A thank-you memorial for an old friend (long)

It was the early 1980s and I was working on my undergrad degree. I was part of an unofficial and loosely-organized “writer’s group” at school, and we would churn out poetry and prose, then pass it around among ourselves for comment and criticism. Occasionally, we’d submit things for publication; and occasionally, they were accepted. While some of us had better luck with publication than others, it was safe to assume that we had all been published at one time or another.

One member of our group was a young lady I’ll call “AM.” By the ripe old age of 22, AM had already been married and divorced; and while this did affect some of her writing, she certainly didn’t dwell on it. She wasn’t overly keen on the more avant garde kind of modern writing, nor did she think much of the “meaning of life” stuff that many undergrads seemed to like writing–she liked a more down-to-earth approach in her writing, and since I wrote poems that rhymed and stories with plots, we got along quite well.

Although we went out a number of times, AM and I never really dated. We both admitted that there was no spark there; we enjoyed discussing each other’s writing (among other topics), but that was about it. And we did get together a number of times, even after graduation, to have coffee or a drink and talk about writing. Her move to another city didn’t affect our friendship, and we kept in touch through letters. We still traded manuscripts, which were marked up and commented upon before being returned. When I had occasion to visit her city, as I sometimes did in those days, we’d get together (on a couple of occasions, finding myself in that city without a place to stay, I spent the night on her couch); and if she was in the city where I was living, she’d call and we’d meet for drinks or dinner.

We grew a little older. She was working in the high-tech sector, and so was I. Neither of us had become well-known novelists, but we were making use of our writing skills–she as a high-tech management professional, me as a technical writer. We slowly stopped doing creative writing, and perhaps because of that, we fell out of touch. But I could keep up with what she was doing through her monthly column on business and management techniques in a trade publication, and she did write at least one book on high-tech business practices and principles. All her writing continued to be that of a no-bullshit-straight-shooter. I doubt very much that she ever read one of my manuals, but then, I didn’t expect her to–unless she used the equipment my clients produced and sold.

One month, her column’s “take it or leave it” approach prompted me to get back in touch with her. She was glad to hear from me, and we had a nice long lunch the next time she was in town. We discussed her column, and then caught up with what each other had been doing, how our families were, and so on. We had a good time, but given our respective schedules, locations, and relationships, we didn’t bother keeping in touch. This was 1991 or 1992, and as things turned out, it would be the last time I ever communicated with her.

Today, I was surfing around the Internet, looking for a book on something-or-other. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but I did find one that listed AM as co-author. It was published in mid-1997. I got a little curious about what she might have done more recently, and plugged AM’s name, and a couple of other parameters, into Google. Up popped links to magazine columns she had written, items that listed her writings as source material, and other such things. Curiously, nothing was dated later than 1998.

Then I found the obituary. AM died in early 1999, of leukemia. She was only 40.

Not sure why I felt the need to post this, except maybe to belatedly thank AM for all the comments and critiques on my writing all those years ago. Her hints and tips and whatnot were much appreciated and came in very handy during my career. Thank you, AM, and I hope that wherever you happen to be, you’re still writing. Somehow, I’m sure you are–and I’ll bet you’re still as straightforward and plain-speaking as ever. And thanks for the memories.

That was a beautiful tribute to your friend, and I’m sorry for your loss. I recently learned that a high school English teacher who encouraged me with my writing died a couple of years ago, so I understand your need to say something about your friend. Writing can be such an intimiate pursuit, and to find someone you trust to participate in that process with you is a gift. It’s no wonder such people hold an important place in our lives, even when we fall out of touch.