I think you know what I mean. You've lost someone. You've perhaps even forgotten about them. You have drifted away from someone. You leave a place and lose touch. Then, suddenly, their name pops up and stares at you.
It takes much more effort to keep up a relationship with people when you don't actually see them face to face. I haven't been back to the UK for many years. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go. I'd still, given the chance, live there. It would make my working life much easier. There are a lot of things going on I'd like to be involved in. I'd put up with the weather and all the other not so nice things if it meant I could say, "That's an hour on the train from here" instead of "That would mean a day's flying and then...." I would not miss Downunder summers in the slightest.
And, I might keep in touch with more people whose company I once really enjoyed. It might be easier now.
I came back before computers were commonplace. I came back before e-mail, Skype, cheap long-distance calls etc. There has been a complete revolution in communication since I returned.
For years I did keep up correspondence with a good friend and when she died I bitterly regretted not seeing her again. Another very elderly friend did not respond this past Christmas and I know that the lack of response from another means that her eyesight has faded to the point where she can no longer respond. It saddens me. I'd like to see these people once more, hold their hands and tell them that their friendship really did mean something to me.
But yesterday, in the course of my work, I was doing some on-line research and I came across a name. It was a name I have thought about over the years. I liked this person very much at the time. We weren't close friends. She was not even at the same school in the university. We met through a mutual acquaintance.
And what stood out then, as now, was her kindness. She invited me to her parents' home once - in a rural part of Kent. I had a wonderful day there. Her parents were not just welcoming but determined I would enjoy myself. It was autumn and we walked across the common. The trees were what I thought of as "real autumn". We don't get much of that here. It doesn't get cold enough. I got well fed and her mother hugged me when we left.
Back in London we saw one another occasionally. They invited me for Christmas the following year. Other things got in the way and I didn't go - something I regret.
I had to come back to Downunder of course. We corresponded once or twice and then stopped. I would see her name in my old address book - the address of her parents. I would wonder what had happened to her. Did she finish her doctorate in phonetics? What did she do after that? I didn't look in the address book often. Someone had an incredibly hard time finding shoes to fit and I would remember her feet - very thin and yes, hard to fit.
I don't suppose I ever really forgot her. Had someone said, "Did you ever know...." I would have said an instant "Yes, of course."
And then, yesterday, I saw her name. It had to be her because her name is a little unusual and it was combined with "phonetics". I did a little further hunting. Yes, she had finished her doctorate. She had worked in academia and then....there she was - a priest in the Church of England.
I sat there and thought about that. Was I surprised? I suppose I was - and yet I was not surprised either. She will be a good priest, a good priest because she cares about people. It is why I remember her.
I've written her a note.