September 12, 2011

Old Friends in New Places

My project, 25 Days, is going to take me to 15 cities across the U.S. this year. I am in Denver now, my third city. I will be doing yoga and riding my bike in each city. I will report to you on my adventures and misdemeanors here.

I went to The Olive Garden yesterday. Yes, I did. I am not the type of person who would normally go to The Olive Garden, but the circumstances were very special.

I am staying just outside of Denver right now with a woman, Mrs. A, who is the mother of some friends from high school I am still close with. These friends are a part of a large circle I have managed to stay in touch with and see on occasion over the years.  If I do the math, this means I have known these people for about 25 years. One of our friends, “Tom”, from this same high school circle is also in the Denver area, and has known “Mrs. A”,  since he was very little.

Mrs. A recently turned 75, so Tom came by with his lovely family, picked us up, and took us to The Olive Garden because it is her favorite restaurant. You might be thinking, “big deal! So what if it is her favorite restaurant! The Olive Garden is a chain! Their food comes out of bags!”, and you would be right about a lot of that. But, you see, for a lot of us in the circle of friends, Mrs. A was one of the few parents in our lives who actually gave a shit.  She was one of the few parents who allowed us in her home, no matter how drunk or belligerent or reckless we were. She, as much as any of us, was an intricate part of our lives growing up because she was present.

Yesterday, as I rode back from the Olive Garden with Mrs A, she talked about the passing of her husband in the early nineties, and how, when her son, “Rick” could not be reached, she was able to contact one of our circle, “Bob” to find him. This was before cell phones. Rick was camping for the weekend, so Bob rented a car and found him in the wilderness to tell him his father had died. As Mrs. A told me this story, she relayed to me how much it meant to her, and how, years before, she had been so angry at Bob and that Bob had avoided her at all costs until the point in time when she asked him for his help.

During one summer break when we were all in high school, Bob had been kicked out of his house, as so many of us had been back then, and had no place to go. Mrs. A and her family spent each summer on Cape Cod, so her son Rick gave Bob the key to their house so he would have some place to stay. Well, boyz being boyz, Bob had a party, and the police wound up coming to the house the next morning and taking him to jail.  Bob had to call Mrs. A’s husband in Cape Cod so that he could be released from jail. Mrs. A’s husband told Bob that he had better clean the house before they got home as he knew his wife would have a heart attack if she saw the house in the state he assumed it was in. So, Bob cleaned. Not like Mrs. A would have cleaned, but he cleaned.

As she told me this story, she expressed her concern that Bob did not know how thankful she was to him, and she worried that Bob might still be avoiding her because of what had happened in high school. She told me to tell him that he and his family were welcome in her home at any time, and that she would always be grateful to him for what he did when her husband died.

It is a great gift to be reminded of the history you have with people when you are away from home. It is also a gift to realize that you have family wherever you go. While I have no part in any of this story, it makes me proud to know all of the people involved. Being reminded of their compassion and genuine affection for each other reminds me that no matter what city I am in, I am never really alone.


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