Friends of Long Standing

I posted this on JaxDaily today … but wanted to keep it on my personal blog as well.  Besides.  It’s getting late, I’ve kinda got nothing, and it’s a pretty good essay, IMHO.

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How often, short of an organized reunion (which I hate) do you have an opportunity to catch up with friends of long standing … my favorite euphemism for “old friends”. The older we all get, the less attractive that phrase becomes.

I had that kind of reunion this past week, taking a break from the long and arduous job search, and it was a very special occasion.

I’ll refrain from naming names, since I don’t know how they’d feel about showing up in a random blog in Northeast Florida, and I respect everyone’s privacy.

The family moved to my little town in Indiana when I was in 8th grade. Three boys and a girl, the girl being the oldest. One brother was a year ahead of me in school, and another was exactly my age. The brother my age and I both played the trombone in the school band, and had many similar interests: photography, music, and general “guy” stuff. We became fast friends, though like most close friends we’ve had our ups and downs.

The older brother, too, was someone who’s company I enjoyed, and who also had those same interests. Back in the day, when it was nothing to disappear from your house for the day on a bicycle, I’d ride out to their house (about 5 hilly miles) and literally spend the day just goofing.

As we got older, learned to drive, and became more mobile, their basement became the place to hang out. If you’ve ever watched “That 70’s Show” … I lived it. All our friends, hanging out in someone’s sorta-finished basement deep in the Midwest playing cards and watching TV and … well we didn’t carry it that far, but you get the idea.

We stayed in touch through college. The two brothers and I all went to Indiana University, and I had one for a roommate sophomore year. One of the down periods, but that passed. We learned to fly together, went SCUBA diving and water skiing and snow skiing … yeah, those kinds of friends.

But as so often happens, life happened. We all got married, some more than others, and had our separate lives. I’ve tried to stay in touch as best we can, but it’s just difficult separated by the years and the miles.

So when I got an e-mail saying they’d be down in New Smyrna Beach for their dad’s birthday, and I had nothing to prevent me from driving down, I did.

They say you can’t go back home again, and I believe that’s true. But sometimes home comes to you, or at least close enough that you can at least pay a visit, and this was just such an occasion. We’d often traveled to New Smyrna Beach … arriving by private airplane (which belonged to the dad) and staying at The Islander Beach Hotel. We swam in the ocean and visited the grandparents and goofed off and such. So, on this return visit to NSB, it was dinner at Norwoods (Fine Seafood and Wine) and just lots of reminiscing.

These two guys and I had traveled together to the far side of the planet and back, and we might as well still have been sitting on the deck of that 50 foot motorsailer that we chartered out of Bundaberg, Australia for a week. We talked about our lives, our kids, our spouses current and past. We discussed the economy and politics and religion and all the things you’re not supposed to discuss with friends of long standing. Our politics are all pretty similar, so there wasn’t a lot of dissent on that score, and of course as the wine bottle grew more empty, the cigars shorter, and the night wore on the suggestions for solving the problems of the country got sillier, and we laughed more. One brother, a doctor in private practice, bemoaning the difficulties of dealing with insurance companies. So many of us have an insurance horror story that it’s very interesting to hear it from the perspective of someone who depends on collecting from insurance companies for his livelihood. The other brother living on a ranch just outside San Diego with a business of his own, and the sister, married to an automobile magnate in Kentucky who hasn’t laid anybody off but wondering how long that might last. Their youngest brother was unable to make the trip from Indiana. And me, of course, the unemployed television host, journalist, and broadcast station manager.

We talked late into the night. I had a motel reserved in New Smyrna because I knew I didn’t want to drive home at 3 in the morning with my mother in the car (who was visiting her old friend as well). The brothers were going fishing out on the flats in the morning. I wanted to go too, but couldn’t. We hugged goodbye, and I headed for the Sea Horse motel in NSB.

I hope you’re lucky enough to have a friend or two like that. Friends with whom you’ve shared so many experiences that, even after years have passed, you can sit down over a glass of wine and a reasonably fine cigar and just pick up like not a day has passed. I know my life is richer for having known these two guys and their entire family. If you are lucky enough to have such a friend … and it’s been a while … pick up the phone.

Sig

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Filed under Old Florida, Old Friends, Thoughts

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