If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me,
because I’d like to hear it again.
~~ Groucho Marx ~~
My old friend Al Bello was, to say the least, one-of-a-kind and among my oldest friends. We met in 7th grade dishing out our own brand of trouble to our teachers and others. Al was among my small circle of class clowns, birds of a feather.
In our quest for attention, we were especially brutal to our music teacher, Miss Morgan. I’ve come to realize, the attention we sought was our misguided attempt to make up for other things lacking in our lives. No excuses though. In hindsight I regret how we treated her and by the time I wanted to apologize she was gone. She was a fine, gifted woman and her story deserves a place of its own here in this blog.*
Over a period of 45-years Al and I lived our lives separated by time and distance. He stayed in Maryland while I moved west. We managed from time to time to reconnect, only very occasionally, via phone calls. I had spoken to Al several years ago when I learned he was suffering with COPD. He was the same guy, the same sarcasm and still the jokester I remembered from our times together so long ago. Despite all those years of separation and little contact I remember thinking: losing him would be a bitter pill to swallow.
My son Matt when he was about 8 or 9 years old (I’m guessing) had a best friend named Ethan. Ethan was a scrawny little kid and wore glasses. The kind of kid that had you looked up the word “Nerd” in the dictionary, you might expect to see his photo, or at least something close to it. His would have been a more modern replacement for my own. In many ways he was like me but not nearly as bad. I was as nerdy/goofy as they came. the best of them! King Nerd… I have proof!
Well one day after church and seeing the both of them together, as they normally were, I asked my son (and I’m embarrassed to admit it, even though it was a bit tongue-in-cheek);
“Matt, why do you hang out with Ethan, he’s such a nerdy kid?” Matt’s reply was tainted with a sense of annoyance, maybe even a little hurt. All he said was “Dad! He’s my friend!”Those four written words don’t do justice to how they came back to me. Matt’s response was such that there was nothing more to say. In fact I immediately felt bad, really bad (and still do), that I had misspoken and questioned my son’s choice in who he wanted to be his friend. Matt was a good kid and Ethan came from a great family, his parents were our friends. He was a nice boy. (more…)
This is a story about one of my oldest friends. I spent a lot of time with him and his family during all of my teen years over a seven-year period. Through most of them we were constant companions. We were once the best of friends. No matter what, when I hear the words “childhood friend”, I think first of Marcus and all those crazy days we spent together. (Marcus is not my friend’s name. I’m using it to protect his and his family’s identity.)
Marcus and I shared a lot of adventures amidst our active lives. They included attending the same classes in school, working at many jobs side-by-side, the V.W. then the G.T.O, our travels around the beltway of D.C., and the many people, especially the girls we came to know. (more…)