Her name was Lois, the same as mine, and, when we were teenagers, she was one of my best friends. So when my husband and I attended a class reunion in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, we got together with Lois and Jim, her husband. Jim was in the class ahead of us, and I had known of him but he hadn’t known me. Every time my husband and I attended a reunion, we spent time with Lois and Jim, and we exchanged Christmas cards every year. After Lois died a number of years ago, the Christmas card exchange continued. Then, almost two years after my husband’s passing, Jim wrote a note on his Christmas card and included his email address. This was how our email relationship began.
I realized at the outset that I was in for a treat, knowing that Jim had been a newspaper writer and still occasionally wrote columns for the local newspaper, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint. His messages are full of reminiscent stories about our younger days, philosophical musings, testimonials of his faith, anecdotes and opinions. Each time I see his email address in my inbox, I get a twinge of excitement, wondering what he’ll regale me with next. I love reading his communications; likewise, he seems to enjoy what I write and doesn’t hesitate to tell me so.
A childhood friend invited me to visit her in West Virginia this past September and October, promising to drive to our hometown of Johnstown, where we could meet with Jim and another friend. The four of us met for lunch, and it was so nice having a face-to-face conversation with Jim after almost a year of email communications. When Jim and I found ourselves alone for a few minutes, he leaned in and gave me a kiss which, I must admit, was welcomed. In the first email I sent to Jim after my return home, I told him that I planned to write about my trip East for my writers’ group and said, “I have a dilemma: do I or do I not mention the kiss?” He was very forthcoming in his answer, so I don’t think he’ll mind if I quote him verbatim:
Dear soft-lips: You have to mention the kiss. It undoubtedly had to have been the shortest kiss in your illustrious kissing background with those with more than a passing interest in your life. I would like a second chance. I know I can do better. I truly was taken aback with the tenderness of that brief spontaneous exchange. Actually, on my part the “move” was not that unplanned. I had been thinking of such an exchange and pondered briefly discussing the possibility with you via email. I decided “no”– — better to let nature run its course.
Right after receiving this email, I took a 2 1/2–week trip. When I returned home, I found myself very busy and didn’t get around to emailing Jim until almost two months after I received his last email. I apologized profusely, assuring him that I thought of him often; nevertheless, I received no response. Then, conformity be damned, even though it was his turn to email me, I sent Jim an email on Christmas day. Still not having heard from him, I sent another email on January 14th. Okay, Jim, I get it – I made you wait almost two months for an email, but come on, I sent you three emails. Doesn’t that count for something?
I decided to Google Jim to find out if he’d written any columns recently for the newspaper. There was nothing new written by Jim, but something written about him. According to his obituary, Jim “passed away peacefully the evening of January 6, 2016, as a consequence of heart failure,” after “being stricken” eight weeks prior. So he never received any of my last three emails, and he’ll never get that second chance to “do better.”
I always say: the internet gives us all sorts of information, some good and some bad. I’ll take the bad with the good, though, because without the internet I would not have formed a warm friendship with this very special man.
January 20, 2016