From the sad email from our mutual friend Lois and the sad phone call from Lynn’s son Lance, I learned that Lynn had lost her battle with what she had first written the doctor was calling pre-leukemia.
After that news, a Christmas card came from Lance and his sister Pamela “PJ” Brown. The inserted memorial sheet had five pictures of Lynn from her baby picture to an adult picture. In between was an adorable formal studio photo of a gently smiling child of around four when she was still living in New York. Then a bathing beauty photo. Next, a sophomore high school class picture that I remembered, and a young adult picture I am not sure I had ever seen. Folding the precious insert back into the card and envelope, I told myself I would have to think about it later. Yet I knew what was inside that envelope, and I could not keep from thinking about the loss of my childhood friend.
During that pre-Christmas season with Lynn’s photos hidden inside the envelope’s darkness, we already had plenty to grieve because our lives were full of sadness and pain for family members and their illnesses. I did not want to face the loss of my first writing friend and faithful and most-fun friend. Since she was in California and I stayed in Southern Illinois, she was not in my everyday life. Although we wrote long letters as young adults, those had trickled off some years to only Christmas cards. She talked of coming back for a visit in retirement, and I had looked forward to that. However, with the pre-leukemia letter, I faced the end of that plan and dream.
Lynn left SIUC the first quarter we were there to fulfill her ambition of joining the Air Force. We wrote faithfully and shared our adventures. Later she married, and she and her husband came back on G.I. bills and were in the area briefly before returning to California.
There they remained although there was one brief summer trip back here in the 1960s. We both had young families. I remember I had laryngitis and could not really talk, which I considered a terrible irony since all Lynn and I ever wanted to do was talk--for hours on her front porch in Jonesboro where she lived with her grandparents and where we grew up, for hours when we took a walk from her house to and through the nearby Jonesboro cemetery and giggled as young people can when death is far away. For hours on the telephone as teens talking about cute boys and what to wear to the basketball games in the A-J gym. For hours as we read to each other from our journals when she was Lyndee and I was Suzie. We spent summer evenings at the ballpark and in the Tropics, our teenage hangout. We could make a nickel coke last all night.
After that 1960s visit at our ancient farm house plagued by laryngitis and busy with the care of our little ones, we did not see each other again until 2001 when we went to California to see our granddaughter Tara play softball and stayed at Lois and Tom’s house in Oakland. We arranged a visit with Lynn in her Concord apartment and met her cats that she loved, and we all went out to dinner together.
This week I opened the haunting envelope again. I have kept her photos on my desk and allowed myself to know I won’t see her again during this life. I signed a sympathy letter to Lance and Pam and included the name Suzie. I won't ever sign my name that way again.
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