Out of the blue Jeff found me on classmates.com. I only registered. He paid the money to contact people. I hadn’t seen him since we were 14 and freshmen in high school.
I was happily married with a large family. He was married with kids of his own. It wasn’t that kind of thing anyway.
We emailed back and forth, catching up. And then, he hit me with this revelation, “I have cancer.” He told me his parents and brother died from it. He said it was his family’s curse. He had cancer before and now it was back. The prognosis was not good.
When Jeff was a boy, he had polio. He wore metal braces on his legs, and at times, a wheeled chair he propelled by hand. I didn’t hold back, teasing him about silly stuff. I got him to dance semi-fast with me at a school dance. Yes, I had a crush on him. I knew he liked me. But coming from an overly protective family, I was timid to act on it. He and our classmates misunderstood. That was too bad.
Jeff went to a private boarding school his sophomore year. We lost track of each other until decades later when he contacted me.
We emailed back and forth for a couple of years. He spent time in South America. He kept bees. I sent him the manuscript of my first novel. For Christmas, he sent me grapefruit from Florida, where he and his wife moved.
His health was declining.
We spoke on the phone once. He was bedridden then. For that hour, we shared an old and familiar connection. I tried to offer him words of comfort and to make him laugh. He told me he kept my manuscript beside his bed.
When I didn’t hear from Jeff again, I searched the Internet and found his obit. He died a few days after we had spoken. My old friend was gone.