You just never know where or when you're going to run into your past.
Sometimes, it's close to home. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be something related to what you're doing.
Last weekend, I went to Columbia to watch my oldest play rugby. (I'm still trying to understand all the rules of the game. Just when I think I have the basics figured out, something happens and that hope is blown right out of the water.)
The game was at a small park north of Columbia off Clemson Road near Two Notch Road. The Greenville Griffins were facing a team from Columbia. Greenville, unfortunately, lost.
It's been fun venturing out of Greenwood for rugby matches and soccer games. Not only does the trip consist of a nice drive to the destination, but there's usually a stop at a Target, a bookstore or two and maybe a place to eat. There's definitely a stop at Dunkin' Donuts, either on the way to the game or on the way home. It really doesn't matter, especially in the fall. Nothing beats a cup of Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee with extra cream and no sugar ... and a big ol' cinnamon roll.
The trip to Columbia was no different than the rest.
Near the park was a shopping center that dominated a fairly large amount of land bordered by Two Notch and Clemson roads. Village at Sandhills was its name.
The shopping center was designed to look like a small community. The stores looked like an old downtown with awnings and such. Middle-sized retail stores mixed well with smaller niche shops. There were apartments and hotels. There were plenty of restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were specialty shops.
The streets led to a circle that had a kids' train running around it.
My sights were set on finding the Barnes and Noble. I parked on one of the side streets and looked at the map for the Barnes and Noble. There was another store I needed to stop in, too.
On my way to the bookstore, I walked past an artists' co-op market. The brightly lit shop was filled with 2-D and 3-D works. Close to the front window was a portable wall with art hanging on it. At the very bottom of the wall was a painting that I think might have been the smallest hanging there.
All the art was nice, as was the piece I was viewing. What caught my attention was the tag next to the work. It was done by an artist by the name of Pat McNeely.
The name immediately caught my attention. More than two decades ago, while at the journalism school at the University of South Carolina, one of the professors there was a Pat McNeely. I know Columbia is a big town with lots of people, but I thought, maybe this was her.
An artist in the co-op motioned for me to come in. I did and had a nice conversation with her. I looked at the art in the market. Pat also had numerous paintings hanging inside.
So I asked.
The woman in the market wasn't sure if the Pat in the co-op was the J-school Pat. We sort of described what we thought Pat looked like. What I did determine was Pat the artist is a woman.
The woman in the shop gave me a piece of paper with Pat's telephone number on it. I'm still not sure where that piece of paper wound up. I don't have it.
So I reached out to another former USC professor who happens to be the president of the South Carolina Press Association, Bill Rogers. I sent him an email explaining what happened and asked if he knew if that was Carolina's Pat.
At about the same time, I got a reply from Bill and Pat. Rogers had forwarded my email to Pat. Bill said it was indeed her and that she was a good artist.
Pat wrote: "I do have some art at the Village Artists in the Village at Sandhills. The gallery is a co-op with about 26 local artists, and I'm lucky to be part of it. Since I retired, my hobbies center around painting and writing - especially history, and I love them both. Thanks for noticing."
I knew about her writing. I didn't know about her art.
Since graduating is 1985, I've seen Pat very infrequently through the years, mostly at press association events.
It's nice to know that no matter the time or distance, there are things that happen in our lives that make a connection - with people in our past and with memories that need to be remembered.
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.