After I found myself mateless, petless and somewhat hapless some years back it was suggested to me by a psychologist pal of mine that I needed to make some new friends and that among them there should be some females. It was also suggested that I refrain from dating anyone or to even consider any such activities for at least a couple of years. I needed to know, or so I was told, how to establish friendships with women.
The first of these was a woman named Mary Kay. Getting to know Mary Kay as a pal was really difficult. I had no experience at this. For a year or so we did stuff together, talked, played tennis (she played tennis. I played stand up ping-pong), hiked, biked, swam and even did some traveling. When she started hinting that she wanted to introduce me to her parents I got nervous; that didn’t sound like buddy stuff to me. Occasionally she would ask if I was free to visit with them and I would make an excuse.
One day she said to me “Lee, howsabout we put some sandwiches and some potato salad into that picnic basket of yours and we’ll go find an empty park.”
“Where on earth will we find and empty park?” I wondered out loud; My friend smiled and I accepted her plan; the next day on our way to this as yet unidentified park, Mary Kay, who was doing the driving that day, pulled into a cemetery.
“What are we doing here?”
“We just found an empty park. Like it?”
“Not really.” I didn’t complain but I wasn’t really possessed with an overabundance of enthusiasm either. We put a blanket on the ground and started spreading lunch around. A few pillow and we were in business. As I dished out some Cole slaw I happened to notice that there were two headstones near us, the last names of which matched Mary Kay’s. I also noticed that these two people, a man and a woman were about twenty-five years older than my picnic pal.
“Lee” said my impish friend as she caught me looking, “I’d like you to meet my parents.”
I suppose you’re wondering how I felt. The answer was that I was so astonished at what was happening that I was not aware of feelings. I could tell you that I learned a lot about relationships that day but I’d be exaggerating. Actually, I only began to learn or perhaps discover what I had learned over time, that day. An article that I posted recently about my parents triggered other thoughts about familial relationships and this memory surfaced. It spoke to me about the strength of families and how they can endure and I was reminded that a life doesn’t just vanish as long as the memory lives on. This one single event, a picnic with a friend in the company of departed parents revealed more about the character of Mary Kay than I had discovered in the several years that we had been friends.