Old Friends

Each person interacts with others in their own unique way. Social scientists and theologians will agree that humans are social beings, with their best performance “in community” with others. We’re all different when it comes to friends. Some are outgoing and seem always to be surrounded by peers–the life of the party, the center of a group or a key part of it. Others prefer to watch from the sidelines, or to interact with a smaller group, or one-on-one. Most of us make a few good friends throughout life. Have you spoken with yours recently?

My Dad Arnold with a friend and a cute pup in the 1930s

Life gets so busy and we may realize that days have gone by, perhaps years, since we spoke with an old friend. Two of my oldest friends and I got together a few years ago for a “girls’ weekend” and had such a great time that we vowed to do it every year. One is a busy college professor, the other a specialty dental hygienist. We each have children and one nursed an aging parent; we are still trying to plan our next get together. We are, happily, in touch more regularly since that weekend.

My Dad was more extroverted than I. He had some great friends and he was loyal to them throughout his life. I blogged about him, his life, and mentioned his best friend Jimmy from the Korean War. Dad was a gifted athlete and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. His career was tragically cut short by an accident early in his first season but he remained in touch with some of the greats of that time.

I remember one sunny day in the early 1970s at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Dad took our family to an Orioles game. Our seats were not too far up from the visitor’s dugout. We arrived early and the Milwaukee Brewers were warming up. Dad walked us kids down to the dugout and leaned over the side, waving. A man jumped up with a hoot, arm outstretched, “Arnie!” he called to my Dad, “How the heck are you?” So many questions overlapped each other as the two reached over railing to hug and pat each others’ backs.

Dad introduced us proudly. “Kids, this is Roy McMillan, first base coach for the Brewers.” Roy shook our hands then asked Dad as he looked up in the stands, “Where’s Lizzy?” Dad pointed up to our Mom a dozen rows up, juggling cotton candy and hot dogs. She immediately waved the food in the air with a great big smile and Roy shouted up unabashed to onlookers, “Hey, Liz!” Then Dad and Roy filled in decades those few minutes before the game. Who won? No idea. But that’s like me to simply remember the joy of it.

Years later we kids put on a surprise 40th Anniversary party for Mom and Dad. We invited as many of their friends as we could get in touch with. It was a blast seeing them reunite, some they had not seen for years. It is fun to see your parents in a different light. Old friends can do that to us, bring out the kid in us. The stories were really fun to hear.

These old friends stayed a week in their RV to have time to fill in the decades…
Arnie and Liz, 1993
Arnie and Liz, 1953

In this past year, I learned from my Mom’s two living brothers, 83 and 91 years old, how they both looked on my Dad as their best friend in life. Dad passed away twenty five years ago. Each man shed tears reminiscing about him. I cannot describe the feeling. Something inside me was so moved, so proud. This is the stuff that life is made of. Enduring bonds and old friends.