This has been such a strange year for me. Perhaps, because I’m getting older and no longer working a 9 to 5 job, I’ve got more time to sleep in, work in my pajamas at the computer or head off to the gym at eleven o’clock at night. I have to confess that I don’t see much of the point in Facebook or Twitter but the idea of reconnecting with people, that I once was close to and have lost track of, has become an endeavor I am more actively pursuing, given that I now have the luxury of time. So far this year, I’ve had some decidedly mixed results. Extensive googling uncovered unwelcome information about my best friend from High School, who settled in San Francisco in the mid-70s and apparently died of AIDS at the beginning of the 1990s. I had last visited him in the early 1980s and we said we'd keep in touch but our individual lives got in the way. A photographer I worked with on occasion including posing for photographs for an unpublished book on the nude beaches of Hawaii didn’t return a Holiday Greeting card last year. Unbeknownst to me, he had died suddenly of a heart attack and left behind no survivors. I only discovered this in one of my exhaustive Google searches of upstate New York obituaries.
Five years ago, I was having lunch with a client in the now defunct Broadway/Theater District restaurant Martini’s when a gray-haired man who looked somewhat familiar stopped at my table and asked if I knew who he was. I couldn’t place him at first but then he smiled and I realized it was my very favorite high school teacher, who actually inspired my twenty five year career in film and television. He had been a member of an order of Catholic teaching brothers, teaching both English Literature and a new optional course in Film History. He was more than just a teacher, however. He also socialized with his favorite students, even going to the movies with them and before you go there, there was nothing sexual or inappropriate in our friendship, even if by today’s standards it would be considered unorthodox. The fact is Tom was only about five years older than the students he taught. When I was 19, he was 24. He probably befriended many students, not only because he was interested in their lives and welfare, but because he was still a young man who had not actually come to terms with his sexuality and his manhood. I had received notes from Tom over the years. In one, I remember him being so excited at having seen one of my early on-screen credits as a television production manager. I suspect I was fulfilling one of his own dreams to actually work in the film and television industry and interact with celebrities on a daily basis. Carelessly, as only a selfish young man engaged in a budding career could, I read his letters and rarely responded. Now having met him again after so many years, we both promised to keep in touch. We exchanged addresses and telephone numbers but neither of us followed up.
Tom did tell me at that chance meeting that he had left the brotherhood and had finally come out. I told him that was a good thing. Since I was with a client that day, I never had a chance to tell him about my life, my husband, my plans for the future but I did think we would eventually catch up. I have to be in Chicago for a day or two next month, which is where Tom settled and I thought it would be a good thing to finally touch base with him. I called the contact phone number he left and found it to be disconnected. I then started another one of my google searches only to find that Tom died at the end of last year. There was no cause of death and no survivors indicated, just a memorial page for anyone who wished to add a few remembrances. Low and behold, student after student described wonderful memories of Tom. I added mine, too. There is a point to this story. I would like to say to anyone who thinks there’s plenty of time to do things in life, “Don’t wait.” If there’s someone you want to reconnect with, do it today. Sometimes in life there just isn’t a lot of time.