Friday, February 19, 2010

Karma and Friendship

Cheryl Lamb, Cynthia Miles, Mary Bulleit, Oleita Cook

The words, "It's karma," are used frequently and many times in an off-handed, meaningless way. I experienced a circumstance almost 25 years ago that gives true meaning to the phrase.

First, a little backstory:

I took ballet and tap dancing lessons when I was 5-6 with three other friends, Cheryl, Cynthia and Oleita. As I remember, Cheryl and Oleita were pretty good at following our dance teacher's instructions, and held their own at our first and last dance recital. Cynthia and I kinda stumbled behind, trying to follow our friends' footsteps. Pink tu-tus, paper flowers and watering cans tied with bows, were also involved.

Oleita and I would spend time at each other's houses playing with paper dolls, jumping rope, playing hide 'n seek and generally having fun. Then, tragedy struck. Oleita's father died and she moved away. I believe we were about eight. I was too young to truly absorb the loss of my friend, much less understand the abrupt way her life was changed, and we lost touch for decades. But, I never forgot her. When I'd spot old dance recital or birthday party pictures I'd think, "Wonder what happened to Oleita."

Fast forward 30+ years. My Chicago-born husband was in Nashville. He'd contacted a business real estate firm about a building his company was interested in leasing. A young woman realtor met him at the location, but, as luck would have it, the owner of the building was late. They stood around for a few awkward minutes, both wondering how to kill time with a total stranger. Moments away from each going to their respective vehicles to wait for the owner, they spotted an ice cream parlor.

It was over a couple of ice cream cones they began asking questions, as strangers do. Have you lived in Nashville all your life? No? Where did you grow up? Southern Indiana? Strange. My wife grew up in Southern Indiana. One thing led to another until they realized his wife was her childhood friend.

The next trip to Nashville, I went with him and met Oleita for dinner. Our reunion consisted of non-stop talking and laughing at old pictures from our childhood. We corresponded by letter and then e-mail, and met for dinner a couple of times after that - the last being an overnight stay with Oleita and her husband, Orville, on our way north to Louisville. I'm so grateful for those two days.

Each time we were together, we'd laugh about the strange event that led to our reunion and how several circumstances had to fall in place for us to meet again. What if my husband had chosen another realtor from the dozen or so available? What if the owner had been on time? The conversation about hometowns would've never happened. If it hadn't been the middle of summer and just right for an ice cream cone...

Less than two weeks ago, Oleita had a massive stroke. After a valiant struggle, she died Friday evening. If I could talk to her one more time I'd say, "We were meant to dance and laugh together, my friend. If not here, in another life."

It's karma.

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