Thursday, September 12, 2013

Boys of Summer

He was one grade ahead of me.  Probably a bit more in calendar years as I was one of the youngest in my class. 

I pledged a high school fraternity in my 9th grade year, a topic which could generate dozens of it's own posts if I were able to recall those events.  But he was in the fraternity.

I had never met him before entering high school.  Our system had two separate schools for earlier grades and then merged everyone for 7th grade on, so we met when I was in the 9th and he in the 10th. As I recall, he was all the things I wasn't - but then most boys seemed that way to me.  He was blonde and handsome, a baseball player, popular with the girls, with a confident way about him.  

The pledge process included getting two "big brothers" and he was one of mine.  I took Greek rhetoric seriously in those years and pledged not just in action, but in thought, pledging my energy and thoughts to the friends and friendships in that organization.  I pledged to be a member in heart all my life, and sometimes I realize I still am one of them, deep inside my 9th grade heart.

But there he was, a friend to me.  We never really connected in a way that other guys do.  My lack of athletic prowess and probably my lack of confidence kept me from being at places he would be, doing things he would do.  But still, I considered him a friend through high school. 

In later years he would pop up from time to time.  For about 4 years I worked at a casino that was in his territory and he would call me, and I would buy lunch for him and his co-workers.  I always wished he would come occasionally without them, so that he and I could eat lunch and talk and visit.  But still I enjoyed those short visits with him.

One day, many many years ago, when his boys who should be grown now were still young, I ended up near his home and called and went by.  His wife was visiting a relative, and I recall he said that he thought a lot of the relative, and she loved his boys.  But he believed her to be lesbian. He said if he ever found it to be true, he wouldn't let her near his boys again.  But as long as he didn't know, he was fine. 

And I have occasionally wondered why I kept quiet.  Why I thought his friendship was worth more than my truth.  Why I still think his name and think of him as a friend. 

- - -

After the boys of summer have gone.

His text read, "Thanks for the card. It's been hard on me. We were really close.  Man I'm sorry for what happened between us.  I've always considered you a good friend.  Life is a blur.  Wife and I both 50 to 60 hours a week and raising 3 kids.  I'm sorry for not contacting you more than I did."

A close member of his family passed away.  I found out a few weeks later and sent a belated card.  I'm not sure, given my odd work schedule and living out of town, that I could have made it home.  But I would have tried.  I would have tried to be there for him.  By the time I found out, some weeks had passed and I sent the card.

The humorist in me wants to respond to the comment about children.  I thought his boys would be well grown by now.  So I'm not sure where he's acquired 3 kids. 

The serious man in me wants to ask about the comment "for what happened between us."

Oh, sure.  I recall a couple of things - tiny things really.  He called me to invite me to his second wedding.  As I recall, the wedding was just a day or two away.  I remember being on vacation and walking into a restaurant when he called, and was nowhere near where he would be married.  He downplayed the event, as I recall it.  Then later through the magic of social networking I saw pictures on line and his bride seemed to have as many maids as royalty. 

I also recall that in response to his statement, "I have something to tell you" I said, jokingly, "Are you gay?"

That came back to haunt me through friends in my hometown who said, "He said you came out to him."

No, I purposely did not.  But that's my bad for joking about being gay. 

So part of me is over reading that comment to be some imaginary slight between being gay and not invited to his wedding.  Part of me thinks he's just referring to the reality of life - that we grew up and grew apart. That we haven't seen each other or spoken to each other in years.  That he's got 3 children I don't know anything about.  And that when people close to him died, I didn't even know it.

And I could bullet point a list of things in my life he wouldn't know.  Life happens.

We're not the boys of summer once we were, in our small home town.

We're not the boys of summer.