I had not seen Susan in person in over 35 years. We had worked together at Digital Equipment Corporation in Alpharetta, GA before it began downsizing and was eventually sold. At the time, we both had two young children, one boy and one girl each. Susan was married, I was in a relationship, so we did not spend much time together out of work. But we were friends. We connected as mothers; we connected as women. We were working in the support center, and it was a great working environment, and Susan and I were more interested in exploring the depths of thought and meaning, then whether someone’s printer really worked. Not really … I mean we were good at our jobs.
When we had a chance to talk, between calls or over lunch, we talked about relationships and feelings and our kids, not about computer programs and hardware.
For our reunion and walkabout, we had arranged to meet at her son’s house, the one we called Little Eddie. Little Eddie is now the daddy of three little boys! He said he remembered being at the office with his mom sometimes and meeting me. Her husband, also Eddie, was there too. What a treat to see both Eddies and the little ones.
Her son pointed us toward the Lullwater Preserve on the Emory University Campus for our walk.
We had occasionally stayed in touch over the years, but not on any regular basis. I left the Atlanta area in 1996 and moved to Maryland. We connected on Facebook.
What do you talk about after 35 years? Our kids, and now grandkids, feelings, relationships and aging. Our kids all seem to be doing well. She has young grandchildren. Mine are all tweens or teens now. Susan is still married. Eddie retired early for health reasons. Susan is contemplating retirement, with some hope and some trepidation. The trepidation is financial. Like many of us, they have worked and saved and realized that they probably have not saved enough to last a lifetime. And like many of us, there is a desire to pursue something meaningful while we still have time, and we still feel well. But giving up the security of a regular income is scary. Susan is now in real estate, has been for the past 25 years. Obviously over the past several years this has been a wonderful industry to be in and she is good at it. She talked about working with a builder and hoping to close out her career with him, but what’s next?
Her husband’s health is not good and many of the things that Susan might want to do, he would not be able to participate in. She has some feelings of guilt about leaving him alone too often while she tries to pursue new interests.
She has suggested many times ways that he walk more or eat differently. She also knows that she is not in his body and she has to trust that he is doing the best he can for himself. As she said “you can’t make a person change or do something he doesn’t want to do.”
But it does not have to hold her back from what she wants to do. Susan has become stronger over the years, and is more willing to speak up for what she wants, and fortunately Eddie does not ask her not to do something.
We both talked about the state of the world and our concerns. And how it might impact our grandchildren’s lives. It got her thinking about what she might do to get involved and feel like she is making a difference. Right now, Susan is in the phase of “endings,” leaving a career that has been good for her and the reputation she has built. She is also entering the “neutral zone,” the phase where you don’t know what is next, where you need some quiet time without a plan, a time to simply reflect on yourself. It is generally in the neutral zone where new ideas will come to you that you might want to test out, without fully committing until something feels right.
We ended our walk with a stop at a local coffee shop to cool off. If I am honest with you, we didn’t want our time together to end, and we promised we would stay in touch. I am happy to say that we have already spoken again this week and hopefully I will get Susan to visit me in Greenville sometime.
There is an old Girl Scout song that feels appropriate to end this story with.
“Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other’s gold.”