A few days ago I decided, on a whim, to see if I could find out just what some of my friends were up to, friends I’d lost touch with over the years. Naturally, the Internet afforded me the flexibility to simply enter the names of certain friends and see what I could bring up, thanks to Google and Facebook. Unfortunately, some of those friends from yesteryear seem to have fallen off the face of the earth—that, or they simply wanted to stay under the radar; not that I can blame them. However, I then put in the name of a high school friend I’d thought of on occasion over the years. We weren’t the best of friends, but whenever we would be in the same classroom or at a party, it seemed we would find something we had in common, which I think surprised the both of us. We were born in the baby boomer era and were in high school during the Nixon presidency. We both lived on farms, both expected to help out with daily chores, even though I got the impression that she got up much earlier than I did, since she was required to help milk the cows before heading off to school. My chores were a lot less demanding. But then, the summer after our high school graduation, rumors started: “Beth joined the circus!” Turns out that wasn’t exactly the case; rather, after the carnival that had made its yearly stop in our region, Beth decided to travel with them. She just packed up her few belongings and left. In reality, I don’t know how she told her family or even if she had told her family, but all I know is that she escaped. At least that’s how I considered it.
You see, Beth and I came from a very small town in Upstate New York where “getting out” was difficult, especially if one helped on the farm. Young men and women were often the necessary help that kept these farms above water—even if barely, and leaving could mean endangering one’s family’s livelihood. A sense of responsibility, feeling of inadequacy to do much else or guilt kept many of the locals’ younger generation rooted where they’d been planted.
But not Beth. She found a way out and I often wondered just how she was doing. I mean, how brave she was to leave what she knew. For me, love, followed by marriage, had been my means of flight. Just where was she? I couldn’t imagine her still traveling the country as a “carny.” So, I decided to see what I could find out.
Well, as it happens, the Internet did manage to find Beth for me, but, tragically, it was via her obituary. Beth died this past summer. The obit doesn’t say of what, but it does seem as though she’d been ill since she had requested no services. As I kept reading, I kept hoping that I had the wrong Beth, but with the information provided, including where she was from originally and the family she’d left behind, I was given no choice but to accept the truth.
It’s quite unlikely that our paths would have ever crossed again, but knowing now that will never be feasible makes me very sad with a feeling of emptiness. But perhaps, too, I’m also grieving for a time when we were youthful, when the road ahead looked long, even if our possibilities were few—they were still possibilities. Now the reality of time shortening that road was made even more apparent when I came across Beth’s obituary.
I hope her life treated her kind.