Barbara, Fill in that 40-Year Gap

On New Year’s Day this year, after taking a short respite from my blog, I returned to it to find a comment on a mid-December post. The comment was from a person with whom I had had no contact for forty years. The comment was from Barbara, a woman with whom I worked in my first association management job. I was surprised (and honored) to read that she credited me with instilling in her an appreciation for the value of good communication skills. My memory, clouded by forty years of intervening events, tells me I called her Barbara Jane or B.J. back then. Maybe not. It may have been just Barbara all along.

When I discovered her comments, more than a week after she left them, I checked for the email address for the person who left them (I don’t permit anonymous comments here—to post a comment, visitors must leave an email address). I wrote an email to her, thanking her for her generous comments and inquiring about her life. I never heard back from her. It’s possible she left a bogus email address; I might have done the same, protecting myself from the possibility that I might be dealing with a stalker. Too bad. I would have liked to learn about what has transpired in her life during the past forty years.

As I sit at my window, watching woodpeckers and flickers drilling and drumming on tree trunks in search of food, my mind wanders back in time to various people with whom I’ve had occasion to work. Don, the tall Chicagoan who, along with his wife, took up scuba-diving to explore shipwrecks in Lake Michigan. Augie, the owner of the association management company that employed me for awhile. Mary, the co-worker with whom I grew extremely close and kept in close contact for many years after I left Chicago. Gus and Finis and Peggy, co-workers at the same organization where I worked with Barbara. Mike, the Canadian who moved to New Zealand and invited us to visit his venues there, treating me like royalty. Darrell, the guy I hired to be a  magazine editor and who, years after he left the job, started an architect search firm.  David, the British coatings specialist who treated us like family when we visited him during conferences in London. The guy, whose name escapes me, who insisted I try a main course of kangaroo when I visited his stadium in Melbourne. Like the birds that stop briefly at the trees outside my window, those people probably will never re-enter my life. Some of them, I know, have died. Others have may done the same. And still others have moved on to live lives of which I know nothing. Like Barbara, who might have remained in Houston or may be living in Paris.

The people I did not like or respect also come to mind occasionally. But I spend only fleeting moments thinking about them. It’s true that people remember how others made them feel. I suspect I am not remembered favorably by too many. I can’t change that now; the opportunity has passed.

Barbara, if you stumble across this post, tell me about your life these last forty years. The same goes for Mike and Don and Peggy and Mary. You all know who you are.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Barbara, Fill in that 40-Year Gap

  1. Barbara, I’m so glad you read and responded to this post. I’m sorry to learn of your illness; I hope you have fully recovered. I can only imagine how everyone in the medical field is in the midst of intense challenges due to COVID-19. I look forward to receiving your email and learning what’s been going on in your life for the past 40 years and to learning about what role you’re playing in the medical field.

  2. Barbara Blansett says:

    Oh, my stars. Reading this note really brings back memories! You were a super boss! I will write you a private email to fill you in. I’m afraid that a short illness rather sapped my motivation for responding, but I have been lurking and reading some of your blogs. Not COVID 19, but I am back in the medical field and times are challenging right now. I just spoke to Jim A who was delighted that I found you and say’s hello. He is still a pistol.

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