Early in my career, when I was just a co-op student, I developed a friendship with one of the engineers at the company where I worked. He was about fifteen years older than I was, married with kids. He was really my first mentor. I still vividly remember running with him along the Erie canal, shooting handguns out at his farm and having dinner at his house with his family. He was a great help to me at work, and he had a great sense of humor. We had a lot of fun together.
Time passed and I moved on to a new job at a new company in a new town, and I lost track of my friend. That was back in a time before social media, when you needed to call people or write letters if you wanted to stay in touch. I've gotten better at maintaining connections, but back then, he was kind of out of sight out of mind. I lost track of him.
Years passed, and once in a while I would think about this particular friend -- wondering how he was getting along, what was happening with his career. I knew there had been problems at the location where he worked, and I vaguely worried about him. I knew his children would soon be in high school, then in college. I wondered how they were doing.
More years passed, and Facebook, Linkedin and other social media sources became available. I would periodically check his name, but he was never listed. Well, I figured, he would be getting into his late fifties by now, so maybe he doesn't go in for these website listings. But that didn't really sound like him. He was an engineer who loved the latest and the greatest when I knew him.
Later I tried the web white pages. I'd reconnected with many, many friends from years ago, but this lost connection really bothered me. I found a listing for his wife. Maybe one for his son? So what had happened? Had he divorced? Moved out of state? I didn't know, and didn't have an easy way to find out.
Today I tried a new site that helps people reconnect, and found out my friend died in 1998. I don't know why or how. I don't have any connection to his family. He's been dead now for twelve years, yet I feel a strange sense of loss. I guess in the back of my mind, I always thought we would get together again in our old age and share war stories of our years at work.