That's how long it's been since I'd seen my old pal from down the block. My last memory was riding home with him in his mom's car after another grueling day of junior high school. After several years of friendship, things had gone south with him. Soon after I was dropped off, his mom called my mom to complain, that I was no longer welcome. There had been a misunderstanding, perpetuated by neighborhood kids. The same ones who later told me that if my friend saw me on the street, it'd be my ass. I was sad about the lost friendship, but also concerned as he could've certainly beaten the shit out of me.
But I never again crossed paths with him, despite my living just a few houses away. Strangest thing. I moved twice more while I lived in the old 'hood, but within walking distance. The 1980s wore on with high school and college, and not once did we cross an area at the same time. He might as well have left the country. There were new friends to make, a new life to live. It was as if those earlier years had never occurred. Childhood really did end when we no longer hung out. The severance was a thundering close of another chapter of life. I don't recall dwelling on the significance of it for too long. It came down to, "that's life". But there was a nice surprise some years later when my friend's mother came into the drug store in which I was working part-time. We made amends. I passed on my best wishes to her son. But there was still no meet up.
For the next thirty odd years my life followed a somewhat circuitous path. I attended and graduated college, locally. Got engaged. Moved to central Florida and then back after a summer during which time the relationship had unraveled. Worked for several years before returning to school: first on the pre-pharmacy track and eventually grad school for audiology. I finally found my career. Working ever since. During those years I met lots of folks, many of whom are at best, vague memories. Others would become key figures. Once in a while I would think on my old friend when thoughts of the old neighborhood invaded my brain. I had learned that he still lived in the area, a bit north these days.
In a previous entry I told of how I discovered that my old friend worked with another old friend (one from college). It was a sign. Had to be. I had been nagged over the few previous years that I needed to get in touch. Here was the opportunity. I got his e-mail and two months later we met for a burger and a few beers to catch up on a lifetime.
He saw me before I caught a glimpse of him, "You still have the same walk!" I thought about the countless times I'd walked the straight line to his house. Our agreed upon meeting place was closed for lunch so we hit another for what I considered an historic meeting. We had both aged, but I think we've kept fairly well, thank you. Especially when you look at some of our peers. As we spoke, we learned that we had similarly destructive trajectories in our twenties. Partied at many of the same haunts on the very street on which we were reminiscing. Though, he found his bride during those years. He now has a teenage daughter who he describes as the light of his life. There's no hiding that joy, the light in one's eyes.
As we described our lives, I was never unaware of what a huge day it was, one I had waited for for so long. There was a bit of disbelief, too. Was it one of those "...we picked up right where we left off" types of reunions? Not exactly. One changes quite bit from age 13 to 45, and we are both very different than those Adidas and tube sock wearing youths of yore. But shades of our old selves shone through. Here we were, still talking about the Miami Dolphins and the rock band Rush. And interestingly, we seem more alike these days. We're already planning the next meet-up.