two thousand twenty
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The three of us were sitting around a kitchen nook table in Beaver Creek, OH.

On my left was Jay, and my right, Skip.

The last time we had done this was something like 44 years ago. Maybe 45 years. Maybe 46.

And that time was probably at my house, with my mom and dad somewhere in the background, and one or two of my sisters cycling through. We’d be sitting at our dining room table, with sandwiches and cokes whatever else my mom had in the pantry or fridge.

Tonight, we were drinking bourbon and coke, and Bahama Mamas. Skip had just cooked filet mignon on the grille.

Old, old friends. And a lot of water under our respective bridges.

The three of us went to high school together. Jay and I went to Skip’s wedding. I was best man and sick as a dog for a couple of days. I took so much medicine to stop sneezing and coughing I have no memory of what happened other than the bride was gorgeous and my toast to the newly wedded couple came out abbreviated and backward.

Jay and I got married on the same day 40-some years ago.

I hadn’t seen either of those guys in at least 40 years and decided to do something about it – remarkably, they had both stayed on our Christmas-card list for decades. In fact, Jay had been in the same house for 38 years.

Last year, I called Jay and ended up taking a week off, visiting him and some other old friends in Pennsylvania. He told me, in his wonderfully simple and incisive way of looking at things, that I had “changed my mind a lot.”

Too true. I had separate careers as a teacher, bartender, journalist, corporate trainer and headhunter. My wife and I have lived in five houses, in three states. Our kids had been born in four different hospitals, in two states and two Korean cities. Our home in Newark is the last move. We love it here.

Getting together with an old friend like Jay after scores of years wasn’t easy. We had both changed, we both had happy things and sad things that affected us, and we were still different people to begin with – now only more so after all the years.

But the same things that made us friends were still there, and Jay and I spent a half-day unearthing some of them and brushing away the dust.

This summer, my wife and I visited Jay and his wife, Jan, and we decided to contact Skip. That took an exchange of letters and some internet research, but we found him. Skip had been in the service and had been all over the world. Would he want to see Jay and me?

He’d love to.

So Jay and I drove the seven hours from central Pennsylvania to the middle of Ohio last week and spent two days with Skip.

What do old guys talk about? Well, when they get honest with one another as old friends do, they talk about what still works, what works with help from the pharmacist, what doesn’t work because it isn’t there anymore, and what doesn’t work but we sure wish it did.

And we talked about old girl friends in high school – before we found the girls we married. I had remembered to take along my yearbook and it got a lot of use. Jay and Skip had attended some reunions – our 50th is coming up soon – and they shared some news about our classmates that I hadn’t heard as we went page-by-page through the book.

The years peeled away. After a couple of days together and some pleasant libation, three guys with a lot of miles on them slowly dissolved into three sincerely goofy high school kids again, remembering stupid things and funny things and embarrassing things and sentimental things.

It was great.

Driving home and thinking about the week, I found that I cared a great deal about those guys, and was kicking myself for not keeping closer track through all the years, all the kids, all the grandchildren, all the losses and troubles, all the triumphs.

We spent days together, but I still have stories to share, as do they – the perfect excuse for another road trip, another couple of days together. I can’t wait. Last week was like finding a missing piece of myself in a box that two of my best friends helped open.

They say you can never go home again.

But I just did.


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