On One Retiree's To Do List: Repair A Ruptured Friendship

May 1, 2018

I recently retired, and have done what many new old fogeys do: I finished a long-term project, renewed my gym membership and — yes — cleaned closets. I also did something I never expected. I reached out to an estranged friend.

I keep friends a long time. I met my first friend when we had baby teeth.

We spent countless summer afternoons in the library. Although we now live miles apart, we still talk frequently.

It’s often about 401K plans and weight-bearing exercise, but our conversations are just as warm as they’ve been for 60 years.

Like most people, I’ve had my share of friends who've drifted away: someone moves, days get too busy.

But unlike relationships that naturally fade, I had one friendship that ruptured. Words were said. There was misunderstanding and anger.

On one of those warm winter days, I was taking the long way home. I can do that now. Nothing much was on my mind. I was admiring the Connecticut River sliding along Hadley farmland.

Out of the blue, that estranged friend popped into my head. Maybe my mind finally had time to rid itself of clutter. Maybe it was something else.

I decided to reconnect. A week or so later, came a reply.

“I’m delighted to hear from you,” she said, admitting cold feet had held her back.

Since that exchange, I keep thinking about those easy afternoons with my first friend. After hours in the library, we’d ride our bikes to the town dairy. Then we’d part -- my friend riding off in one direction, and me the other. There were hours of daylight left. Summer was endless.

Right before the creek, I’d slow my bike and look over my shoulder. At that exact moment, I’d see my friend send up one final wave. Then before I knew it, she’d round the corner, and be gone.

I don’t know where the reconnection with my estranged friend will lead. It may be enough simply to have reached out.

But I do know this. I’m glad I got in touch. It’s like that final wave all those summers ago: reassurance of a bond one last time, before you round the corner yourself without looking back. Some friendships last forever. Others fade away.

Martha Ackmann lives in Leverett, Massachusetts. Her new book, "Vesuvius at Home: Ten Days in the Life, Loves, and Mystery of Emily Dickinson," will be published later this year.