We spent the evening, Bern and I, with Mike and Mary Miano. We tried to remember the last time we'd seen each other. I was no help whatsoever since I am lost and awash in linear time for the most part. Mike had some suggestions, though my vagueness about time didn't even let me remember the years he thought of.
This I know, we went to high school together--Mike and Bern and I, though he was a year ahead of me and Bern three behind me. But we all knew each other. It was impossible in a school that graduated under a hundred a year not to know almost everyone.
And Mike and I were college roommates for a year and knew each other and saw each other many times during the other years at WVU.
Suffice it to say, it's been decades...maybe almost 40 years...since we've all been in a room together.
And tonight we were.
I was a tad anxious about their coming by--they live near Bristol, Virginia, in south-western Virginia are driving around the East Coast and the New England states. Just driving around, no destination, looking for historic stuff to do with Presidents. They've been on the road for over a week and plan to be (if 'plan' is a word to apply to their agenda!) for up to another week. (I have real difficulty identifying with this kind of vacation...I want to go somewhere and stare out at the ocean for as long as I can...but when they describe it, it seems almost like fun.)
I was a tad anxious because so many years have passed and people, as people do, tend to change. Mike and I were very close friends for many years in our teens and 20's. But we aren't in our teens and 20's anymore. I wondered if there would be enough connective tissue left from so long ago a relationship to enable us to move together.
I shouldn't have worried. It was remarkable how quickly the decades slipped away and the 4 of us were (not 'young again', God knows!) but still the same people, only more so, that we had been back then.
Mike isn't 'crazy' anymore. And he was one of the 'craziest' people I've ever known. But then, again, neither am I. There are more than a couple of things we did back then that neither of us would want any of you to know about! (Actually, if I'm honest, Mike was a good degree 'crazier' than I was. But I tend to attract 'crazy' and really resonate to it.) But, incredibly, in 4+ hours in our kitchen and a local restaurant, the decades didn't matter, didn't matter at all. The connective tissue survived the time. We are, remarkably, much the same people who liked each other so much so long ago. What a gift!
Bern and I will be married 44 years in September. Mike and Mary will be married 44 years in April 2014. Two old married couples separated for decades, both with a boy child and girl child--never having met each others' children, I think--both with three grandchildren (all boys for Mike and Mary, all girls for Bern and I). Lots in common, but most of our lives 'since then', very different. Mike was a mining engineer. I was a priest. Mike and Mary mostly lived below the Mason Dixon Line and Bern and I lived mostly in Connecticut.
And, as far as I'm concerned, all the twists and turns our lives had taken over the last 3 or 4 decades were dissolved in 3 or 4 hours tonight. Friendship, perhaps, endures in ways we don't automatically imagine are possible. That, if nothing else, gives a sweetness and value to life that should be unconcealed and celebrated. Really.
Mike had in his pocket tonight a pocket cross that I left in his couch or somewhere the last time I saw him. In emails and occasional communications over all these years, I have inquired about my pocket cross. And he has told me, over and again, he would give it to me only in person. As I was writing this, my phone rang. It was Mike, leaving a message that he would put the cross in an envelope and send it to me. I called him back and told him that 'possession in 9/10ths of the law and he had had it much, much longer than I ever did and it was meant to be his. Then he told me about a silver money clip I gave him when he and Mary got married (did I remember that? No!) and so he had two silver things from me.
That is as it should be. Mike deserves silver from me (gold, actually, but I'm not there to give it).
I don't know if you, reading this, can begin to imagine how finding a friend over the tides and times and flotsam and jetsam of all those years can be so precious, so rare, so very fragrant and sweet...something to ponder as years speed by and life grows shorter each year.
What a wondrous gift this day has been....Really....
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