Friday, 3 May 2002

I had lunch with Laurie Markworth (her maiden name) on Monday. Was it Monday? Maybe Tuesday. I found out she has been taking classes at Kent for over a year now, and we have never gotten together. Laurie was one of the "Real People" in high school. , a member of our "group." A few years ago after a Tuesday run a bunch of us were eating dinner at a burrito place in Conventry, in Cleveland, a very good place to eat. I went to the bathroom and upon returning this woman came up to me and asked, "are you Bobby Griffith." It was Laurie. It took me a minute to recognize her-- it had been so long since I had seen her. Probably 1981 or so. What a surprise. We ran into each other again at Kent in the Hub. I like surprises like that-- unexpected, a bit unnerving when you think of all the parameters that had to fit together to bring two people together in the same spot, at the same time, especially when the likelihood is so slim.

Laurie called me that morning with bad news. Amy Burrows (maiden name), her husband had died the day before of a sudden heart attack. Totally unexpected. I just can't imagine. I wish we would have gotten together under better circumstances, but it was good seeing her again regardless.

I plan to go to Amy's husbands funeral on Sunday. My heart just aches for her and their kids.

One of the books I'm reading right now, Lake Effect, and some e-mail conversations with Steve Abbott, my best-friend in high school, my English friend, has gotten me thinking of all sorts of stuff from my past, about friendships and friendships lost, about life lived, about what gives us life, meaning, hope, contentment. To hear Rich Cohen (the author of the book) write about life in high school along the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago in the early '80's, about his best friend and the imprint their friendship had on his life, has caused me to remember Steve and Laurie and Amy and Joey and Krista and the others that were a part of my life -- Amy D., Elaine, Mike, Mark, Mary Jo, Doug & Janet (with Kurt Vonagett books in Accounting class), Cindy, my gosh, I can't remember names. Most of all, Cohen's friend reminds me of Steve. Not in personality, but in the type of friendship experienced.

I was so fortunate to have grown up in Vermilion, in my neighborhood. I was fortunate to have parents who loved me, and a mom who stayed home with "us kids" because she wanted to. My parents were parents to many more kids then just my brother, sister, and I. They were parents to John, to Steve, to Carol. My brother's best friend in Vermilion, my best friend in Vermilion, by sister's best friend in Lima.

There were times when John and Steve practically lived at our house. Steve a little less so, but I remember many Saturday mornings waking up and staggering into the family room and there was Steve, watching cartoons with my brother and sister. To be fair, I spent a lot of time at Steve's house, too. Mostly because his mom and step-dad never seemed to be around that much. Watching TV down in the family room.

I was fortunate to have grown up in a self-contained neighborhood surrounded by a big woods, a small forest, and small lakes. Summers were full of water and woods, running around bare-foot, lighting big fires in the woods and thinking we could get away with it. And all this life lived on the North Coast, on the south shores of Lake Erie. The neighbors were a different story, but I could have picked a more idyllic place for a kid to grow up!

Summers were full of exploring, building forts, playing army, discovery, bonfires on the beaches of Lake Erie late at night with Papa Joe's pizza and Mountain Dew, canoeing up the Vermilion river, playing Put-Put, washing boats with Lynn Dusky, drama, the Festival of the Fish, and blazing trails. Watching heat-lightning role in over the lake, stars and meteor showers, "blinky lights" as we sat on the beach with our feet buried in the sand, cool breeze blowing, water lapping close. What more: painting the wall at Crow Lumber, making fun of all the summer people, the tourists coming to see Harbour Town as it was in 1837, Friday nights roaming around in a station wagon full of people, taking a flashlight to the park on Lake Erie on the west end of town, what was it's name?, and shining the flashlight in the cars as they sat overlooking the lake hoping to catch someone we knew making out. Then, being chased all over town by someone who didn't really like being exposed with a flashlight. What else?, seeing Jaws at the Liberty (the only time the small, local theater was full), seeing "Midnight Express" at the Liberty by myself after feeling melancholy during a cast party, just hanging out at someone's house, marching band, summer jobs at grocery stores, a month in France, Steve and I camping one night on the small island in the big lake of our neighborhood, skinning dipping (only once and I was very embarrassed), fishing, going to Mill Hallow to sit in the river under the towering cliffs of shale when the summer simply got too hot and humid. I am not even beginning to mention everything that went on when school was in session.

This time was also full of emotional turmoil, insecurity, fear, confusion, and all kinds of other stuff rolled up in the normality of teenage years.

I've done a poor job of keeping up friendships over the years. It is my fault, for the most part. I could do more. They could have, too, I know. I regret that because it would be very nice to have close friends who have known me all my life -- all the good and bad and ugly parts. All the trials and triumphs of life. Talking with Steve again after 20 years, seeing Laurie again, and being in touch with some of the others is nice and good and I am thankful, but how much better it could have been if we stayed in touch actively, but distance and families will keep us from ever being that close again. I think of Patrick and Brian and the friends they have, have had since high school. They stick together through the thick and the thin, through revelation and discover, through everything.

It is a good think to remember. It is an even better thing to make one's life worth living. A good thing to live life in such a way that memories are always made, memories that I know enabled me to experience life in the fullest manner possible.

I think about many people my age who get into a rut. It is easy to do when family, career, and the mundaneness of the stuff of suburban life take over. I don't think I could have done it. I don't think I could sit still like that. I don't think I could live my life in mundaneness of everyday life without the prospect of discovery, of something different, for long anyway. I'm there now, but in a few months a new life begins. I will be pushing into a new adventure in the big city. The feeling is almost like in high school when we would venture into the "big city," of Cleveland. Now, with age, with experience, with a bit more wisdom, I am venturing into the "big city" of New York to begin the next chapter of my life. Will I be able to hang onto those who are most important to me now, whose friendships I am going to miss dearly -- Amy and Patrick? Are they going to go the way of other close friends? I hope not.

Anyway, my whole life will again change, and for those life changes over the years I am very thankful. Maybe, right now, that is why I find myself alone with the angst it is causing me lately. Maybe, in the providence of God, in my trust of God, it is better that I am here now, in this place, to be able to take that next step in a new life, onto a new road that leads to somewhere, but it is the traveling that is important, not the destination.

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