Thursday, August 7, 2014

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

Music and shooting pool,
First kisses and a brother
Who died too young.
Cars, first jobs, and parents
Who have passed on.
Paper routes and sandlot baseball.
Crushes and ping pong.
Adventures and crazy old teachers,
And yes, our current lives.
 Families and kids and jobs.
A lot of looking back but also
Our dreams of what lies ahead.

Basketball, football, soccer, kick-the-can and
We only spent a short part of our lives together.
A little while, a long time ago.
Ah, but those were important years.
We helped each other to grow up.
To be the ones we would become.

We talked of
Mutual childhood friends and family.
Who had become cops
And professors,
Drug addicts and nuns.
Of how our parents passed away
And what they passed on to us.

While our hair has grayed or gone,
And our faces are lined,
It was the eyes that I remembered most.
Those eyes got us back to our shared history.
Those looks that made us laugh or mist over.
The eyes brought us back to the depths of our friendship,
Beyond the old acquaintances we had become.

Almost forty years had passed
Since we last sat in each other’s company.
Half a lifetime without looking into each other’s eyes.
When I heard Ed’s voice on the phone
For the first time since the early 70’s
I didn’t recognize it.
He could have been any middle-aged man
From the mid-west.
But when I saw those eyes I knew.
I remembered.
I was taken back in time.
To campfires in Maysack’s Woods and paper routes,
And altar boys and talk of girls,
And sneaking smokes and playing pranks,
And slugging shoulders and Catholic school haircuts,
And older brothers and sisters we looked up to.
And dreams.

When Geno and I reconnected after Rick died –
Those stilted emails and condolences –
It was so artificial. 
But when he got out of the car
I asked him to take off his sunglasses.
I needed to see those eyes.
Those cunning, teasing, laughter-filled eyes.
“Why are you hitting yourself?” and
“Let me show you how it’s done.”

For three hours we laughed and reminisced
And riffed and joked and shared our story.
About wives and kids and grandkids
Whose paths we have not yet crossed.

Sun in our faces,
Baseball caps and laughs.
The sound of Lake Michigan waves and laughs.
Cigar smoke and seagulls
And sunstars on the surface of the water
And laughs.

Our lives, once as connected as tin can telephones
Strung from house to house,
Had been separated by miles and lifetimes.
But three older men
Sat on one a picnic table on a beach
And looked into each others’ eyes
And made each other laugh.

Before those two grown men
Got into that fancy car
On that warm and sunny Lake Michigan day
Heading back into lives and people
I’ve never known,
Gene called to me,
“I still love you Timmy.”

And somehow-
After all that distance,
Scars, lovers, fears, laughter, children, tears –
Somehow that’s who I was.  Timmy.
And these two old friends
Showed me that
In some small way
It is still
A part
Of who
I am.


Emily said...

Eyes and voices and names. You hit hard on some importances of connection. Beautiful. What a gift this was for you to be able to spend this time with people who could reconnect you to parts of yourself that grew from your time with them.

Ruth Anne O'Keefe said...

You always know what to say and how to say it.