Column: Gathering of friends offers ray of light in the darkness

In December 2011, a friend threw a party for a mutual friend visiting from out of town.

It was dark when guests arrived in the late afternoon and dark when the party broke up around 10 p.m.

Among the dozen or so gathered, all had been touched by the recession, which allegedly ended in June 2009 but didn’t feel like it had ended.

Some people at the gathering had lost their jobs. Some had retired early, and for the self-employed, business had dramatically fallen off. Even those who had kept jobs had lost coworkers to layoffs and witnessed extended family members lose their jobs.

Recently, at summer’s peak, the friend threw a party again for the mutual friend, and invited the same crowd. We arrived in the light and left in the light, too. We all caught up on each other’s lives and discovered that those who were not working that December 2011 were again working, as were their family members who lost jobs. Business for those self-employed had picked up again.

When the hostess walked me to the door as I left, we both commented on the change, from dark to light. We shared memories of the anguish during the downturn. I told her that when I look back on those years, when people lost jobs all around us, the scenes are always in black and white, and it’s cold outside, even though some of the recession scenes happened in warm weather.

We decided it was like the Dark Ages as depicted in movies and in books. Always cold. Always filled with anguish.

The unemployment rate remains higher than it should be, and it hasn’t turned from dark to light for everyone. The recession’s after-effects linger. Suicide rates increased for working-age folks, as did prescription drug abuse. The Depression era had ramifications for generations. The recession didn’t touch that Depression bottom, but it did find its way into every family and workplace I know.

DAN AND TERRI FOREVER: In my Aug. 26, column, I embarked on a search for a couple named Terri and Dan, boyfriend and girlfriend in the 1960s. During a home remodeling project, a South Hill reader named Mike discovered a heartbreaking love letter Terri wrote to Dan when the couple was separated by circumstances. She was saving up her school hot lunch money to afford the gas to go see him.

I quoted part of the letter and asked if anyone knew what happened to Terri and Dan. The last names were in the letter, but I purposely withheld the last names, out of worry it would embarrass the couple, now likely in their 50s or 60s.

A reader named Terri did respond, sure it was her letter. She lived on the South Side growing up, but it wasn’t her. We emailed back and forth and she agreed to let me use part of her story, no last names.

She wrote: “OK, I was a little disappointed to not be the Terri in your story, but I will give you the short version of my romance, and you will see why I thought I was the one. I was a junior at Lewis and Clark High School and dating an older man.

“The Dan in my story was going to WSU, and my parents were not thrilled with the age difference. Money was tight, and he could not come home to Spokane often so lots of letters back and forth. We did get married, both of us young, and were together for almost 15 years.

“We eventually grew apart and divorced, no children, and I believe we now are living happily ever after with our current spouses. I’ll follow your story to see about the other Terri and Dan couples. How many could there be?”

NATIONAL GRANDPARENTS DAY: It was celebrated Sunday, and it’s not a holiday that’s really caught on, agree? But the U.S. Census used the occasion to send out some facts and figures about grandparents and their designated day, including:

• In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day.

• 7 million grandparents have grandchildren under 18 living with them.

• 10 percent of U.S. children live with a grandparent.

• “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa” was named the official song of National Grandparents Day in 2004 by the National Grandparents Day Council.

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING:

• Zumba with Sandy – boomers, beginners and others can work out with special attention given to protecting backs, hips and knees. Audubon Park Masonic Lodge, 2821 Northwest Blvd. Starts Sept. 16 and lasts five weeks, held Mondays and Thursdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m. and 5:45-6:45 p.m. (509) 270-0053.

• Food for fines – The Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front Ave., is accepting a donation of nonperishable food as payment for overdue fines. The program lasts through September. (208) 769-2315.

For more activities, go to Spokane7.com


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