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Saying Something Stupid and Losing A Friend

Spent a week with my BF from college, Mary. We laughed, ate, drank, saw the Eagles and sang along to every song. We looked through the yearbook with Chris and wondered where this friend or that friend had gone. We graduated college way before cell phones and social media and we lost track of each other for a while. I wondered if it was something I said or did. She wondered too. Now it’s all water under the bridge.


When I was growing up, Gail McDermott was my BF and a year older than me. She lived down the block at the end of Ashcroft Avenue. She had all older sisters. I had all brothers. She had a lot to teach me. And I worshipped her.


Her dad, who I don’t remember ever hearing speak (as I remember most dads back then) was handy. He had a couple old Thunderbird cars he used to tinker on out on the driveway in the summer. In the winter, he would set up lights in the evergreens and flood Gail’s backyard.


We skated every day after school into the dark. Waiting for the lights to come on and spotlight our talent. Our show that we practiced for hours. A leg each up in the air behind us - clasping hands spinning and spinning. Our three foot long stocking caps flying out behind us. I can feel the thick chunky bunch of Gail’s mittens in my hands. The way the icy bits on our mittens sort of melded together and kept us connected.


After big snows we would go to the Gronhke’s hill to sled and wait for Mr. McDermott to shovel the rink. It was a steep terraced hill with three distinct landing areas carved into it by some landscaper maybe trying to give a lawn mower a break. And on one of those breaks, Gail flew a foot in back of me on the long strip of plastic under us and came down on my back-stretched arm. My brother a block away was shoveling our driveway and claims he heard the crack. Clean through. Wrist bones. My mom heard me crying - screaming - three houses before I got home.


And thus began the guilt of Gail McDermott.


I was in the hospital for a few days. Had to have surgery and Gail made me two cards a day.


We would sit together and relive the adventure. Talk about our skating show and when it would begin again. And the cards kept coming.


One day, I said to Gail “you know, you don’t have to make me a card everyday.”


I am not sure if I said it with an edge or with a smile. I am pretty sure I didn’t say anything else. That it was blurted. Which is a huge fault of mine. I can be a blurter.


But something changed that day. Gail stopped making cards. Didn’t visit every day any more. The snow melted and Mr. McDermott pulled the T-birds out of the garage.


In the fall, Gail went up to Senior High and I finished out Junior High in another building.


I had lost a friend.


I hung with my brothers and thought about talking like boys, like lions. Approach Gail. But I was no lion. I turned bright red when embarrassed, wore Minnetonka moccasins to be smaller and not taller, held my books tightly to my chest and tip toed into Senior High the next year.


Now I know friends come and go. Especially while we are growing up or in the absence of cell phones. It probably doesn’t have as much to do with how we blurt out something stupid; as it does with how our heads are turned in different ways.


We skate in and out of each others lives until we reunite again - spin some stories wildly, hug each others’ old and broken bones. If we are lucky, we may go through the year book and wonder about our friends, or we may be exceptionally lucky and get to exclaim stuff in wonder and love to each other like “You made a card a day for me!! That was really really awesome.”



Mary, Todd, Chris and I spinning stories. if anyone knows Gail McDermott - pass on my love to her.

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7 Comments


another great read kiddo!! ...surviving junior high school without making a few fumbles or occasionally feeling lessened by comment from fellow classmate was i.m.p.o.s.s.i.b.l.e. .... we were all so skittish about our identities back then. and actually in the long run those things were good building blocks to shape who we became . very cool that you two are having fun together again. that sledding story reminded me of similar thing ... it was junior hs and me and lots of pals would go sledding in some homeowners' backyard that was close to the school (no clue who owners were, we just invaded on snowy saturdays!) their backyard was a very long steep run. we called it Suicide Hill ..…

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Maggie Stewart
Maggie Stewart
Oct 19, 2023
Replying to

Omg love it !!!!! Love you Joan dear

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Ed Sweeney
Ed Sweeney
Oct 14, 2023

Love it Mag...something I think everyone can relate-to, especially in the age of social-media re-connecting. Grateful you skated into my rink lo those many years ago. (But, to be honest, I have no recollection of you ever being a blurter....😁). Hugs.

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Maggie Stewart
Maggie Stewart
Oct 14, 2023
Replying to

Hahahahahahahaha!!!! Oh but I am. Xo

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Joey Thatcher
Joey Thatcher
Oct 13, 2023

Raise a glass tonight James "Bernie" Burns earned his 15 year angel wings today. Sure do miss my friend.

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Maggie Stewart
Maggie Stewart
Oct 14, 2023
Replying to

Oh Joey!! Raising a glass!! He was such a sweet kind soul. 😇😇💙💙

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