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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
  
  
  
 
Messages 1 2 

I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by tucsonmike on 16 December 2010 11:34pm
 
Laurie had been my friend since 1993. I stayed with her in South Africa in 1996. This is how I learned things South African and I was stunned to hear of her death in the U.K.

I wrote the following essay as a memorial.


December 15, 2010.
I did not think I would be writing this now. I received a FB reminder that it is my old friend Laurie’s birthday. Little did I realize I would get on her Facebook to wish her Happy Birthday to find postings to her memory. She was eight days younger than me. (I am 54). This is dedicated to her children, Caroline and Brett, and any other friends and family I did not meet.
I was shocked, it was 4:30 in the morning and first wondered if her page had been hacked until I read down the page and saw the first memorial was from her son on February 18th, 2010. Sadly, this is true, I heard from her daughter, Caroline. Had I been out of touch that long? Yes, last time I spoke with her was her birthday in ’09. Problem is, we get busy and do not always catch up. So I am writing this as a remembrance of a person and a country far away.


This story is about South Africa, but it begins in New Orleans, at the end of June, 1993. I was on the flight returning home from the American Library Association conference. On the line in the airport, I helped a colleague with tipping the baggage handlers in the airport. I thought she was Australian. She set me straight when she said, South African.
I knew nothing about South Africa, other than vague stories about cousins, who moved there when much of my mother’s family left Czarist Russia. Africa was not on my radar in 1993.
She was going to be staying in a Manhattan hotel for a few days before her flight back to South Africa. I took a day off and offered to take her around Manhattan.
I took her to some tourist places than to where I grew up in Brooklyn. A friendship was born.
Times were changing in her country. I started to read up on South African history. In 1994, the first multi-racial election in South African history was going to be held.
I figured I better learn something about my new friend’s country. There were certainly going to be a lot of problems. The Internet was new to my work and life and writing to Laurie every day was a personal window into the turmoil leading to Nelson Mandela going from twenty years in prison to being the new President of South Africa soon.
No one knew how this was going to turn out, whether this was going to be a bloodbath. I lived in New Jersey; there was a seven hour time difference. I would write to her from work at the end of my work day and there would be a note waiting for me the following day. Sometimes the notes were full of horror. No one knew was going to happen. There was fighting between black groups, Afrikaner people angry at losing their power and the tension waiting for what would happen on Election Day. There was a heart breaking story about a young American woman who went to help the poor nonwhite population in Cape Town, who was murdered by militants among the population the young lady was trying to help. Laurie’s exact words were, “I wept for her family.”
I had a very left wing colleague where I worked. Had definitive views about South Africa and feeling the fact that I cared for whites mean I was a supporter of the Nationalist Party and Apartheid. “No,” I kept trying to explain to her, “I am not an Apartheid supporter, but a Laurie supporter.”
A faraway place I thought I would never get to. Then in 1996, I saw an invite for a conference in Pretoria. I submitted a paper based on the work I was doing and one I presented at a conference in Santa Barbara. The paper was accepted, so I was taking up Laurie’s offer of hospitality and off to South Africa I went
I have to thank her family for the amazing time I had. Those were great memories. I got teary eyed yesterday at work. I should not have been out of touch that long. Caroline and Brett should know I am there if needed.
There is a life lesson to this folks. Stay in touch, and live each day as though it is your last. You have heard the saying “Hold your friends close but your enemies closer?” No! Hold your loved ones closer, for you never know when you will not be able to hold them in this world.
Rest in Peace Laurie.
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by johnnythemonkey on 16 December 2010 11:43pm
 
I'm sorry to hear of your friend's passing Mike. Hold on to your dear memories of her and a chance meeting that led to them.
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by tucsonmike on 16 December 2010 11:56pm
 
Thanks, Johnny!
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by suzulu on 17 December 2010 12:31am
 
Oh, that is so sad, Mike. I am so sorry to hear this. May she rest in peace.
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by kazzzz on 17 December 2010 4:39am
 
Very sad Mike. Your words are lovely.
We have had 4 deaths close to us in the last 2 months including Kathryn's friend who was 19, and my friend who was 40 who was hit by a drunken driver. I also lost a friend to breast cancer last month in her early 40s.
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by tucsonmike on 17 December 2010 11:08am
 
Oh Kaz, I am sorry for you.
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by Loretto on 17 December 2010 1:03pm
 
Mike, beautiful memoir of your meeting with Laurie. I hope her children save it.

Kazzz, I never knew and am so sorry for your losses also.

 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by perfectbitch on 17 December 2010 10:24pm
 
What lovely words. Thinking of you Mike.

Linz
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by tucsonmike on 18 December 2010 7:39pm
 
Thank you for everyones kind words. Facebook was a heck of a way to find out. Lots of good memories and I am so sorry for her kids, who I HAVE net,
 
Re: I Never Thought I Would be Writing This. by kazzzz on 19 December 2010 7:32am
 
Ohh how old are the kids? That's awful :(
 
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