Posts tagged ‘friends’

Things Change

It was about 25 years ago. College graduation was just behind us and we’d gotten together during the summer for a long weekend. It was the first of many annual gatherings, and it was the best. We didn’t have a lot of money–we splurged on a limo one night to go to Atlantic City and it cost us $30 a piece. And I remember pitching in. I remember the excitement and the feeling of being a little crazy. I also remember figuring out how to drive back to Pittsburgh without using a toll road because after the limo and $40 on slots, I didn’t have $10 left to my name. Not in my wallet nor my bank account. I still recall laughing about that as I spread a paper map out across my hood, looking for a way home.

$30. Hard to imagine that that was once a lot of money. But it was. And we spent it. And it was worth every penny. I discovered that night that I am not a casino person, but the limo ride was hilarious and crowded and adventurous and a whole lotta fun.

We were spending the weekend with friends who were among the first to get married and the first to have a home that wasn’t a tiny apartment. At one point in that house, the couple who lived there were busy elsewhere. And a few of us found a pad of Post-It notes and a pen. And we decided to leave little notes. And we scribbled and giggled for quite some time.

Another highlight was that one of our friends, who missed the weekend, missed the weekend because she was giving birth to the first of our next generation. And we all went to the mall and bought baby gifts and shipped them off. Beyond Atlantic City and the mall, the memories are a jumble of uproarious laughter, beers, and hugs.

It was a brilliant weekend. One of the best.

Last week, that same couple came to stay at my house. They didn’t use a paper map to get here. There’s GPS these days. And they were driving an SUV, not a mustang or a purple (or was it periwinkle?) Gremlin. And an SUV has seats for teenage children. One who is about to leave for college. And it’s an incredible feeling to think that she is now as old as we were when we first met.

Incredible feeling as in awesome, nostalgic, bizarre, mind-boggling, joyous, midlife crisis inducing, and pretty darn cool.

They stayed two nights and I played hookie one day to go to Kennywood. Another swingback in the circle of our friendship as the last time I had been to that amusement park was with them and some of the other Atlantic City trip friends about 12 years ago. Of course, that time, I was fighting a hangover when it came to making my way around the rides. This time, my feet hurt.

Things change.

The next day, I left for work and they left for more of their trip. After days of prep and orchestrating sleeping arrangements and sharing one shower, I came home that day to an empty house. Is there a relief when company leaves? Even the best of company? Sure. But it makes me sad. And my little house felt lonely and quiet.

I sighed and straggled to the kitchen to make some dinner. My hand on the refrigerator door handle, I saw it. A Post-It note. And I started to giggle. And there were more. A lot more. In the ice cream, in a drawer, stuck on pictures, hanging in my medicine cabinet, under my pillow. I found another one this morning, in the egg carton. And I’m still giggling. And I suspect there are more to be found.

Paybacks aren’t always a bitch. Sometimes paybacks are hilarious.

We’re a long way from the college campus, and we’re older. There’s less drinking, more aches and pains. Dreams have been achieved or not. Hopes have been realized or jaded. We get up early to go to work. We pay for electricity and gas. We have mortgages and car payments and credit cards and loans. We don’t see each other every morning, go to every meal as a group, or go out dancing three nights a week. We’re grownups for heaven’s sake. We’ve seen a lot. We’ve done a lot in separate lives.  

But. All these years later, maybe there are few gray hairs or a few extra pounds here and there. Maybe we’re not quite as spry or not quite as quick. The memory’s a bit foggy. The heart’s not quite as light. But. The faces are the same, the eyes still light up when we spy each other. The hugs are still tight. The laughter still as infectious. The friendship is still strong. These life preservers still float. 

Yes, things change. But, the important things remain the same. And it is good to discover at middle-age, that some things are invincible.    

Til next time.

August 12, 2011 at 2:33 am 2 comments

Do You Believe in Golf?

Yesterday I had my “Golf Final.” I passed. Let’s call it a C+ on nine holes, par 3. We didn’t keep score, my short-term memory is shakey at best, and I’ve read but not memorized the penalty stroke rules, so I honestly can’t tell you my score. But I got a couple of drives to the green and had a couple of very long putts that (nearly) went in. I also had a couple of terrible drives and on two, maybe three, occasions, had to pick my ball up and walk on due to the three drive/three putt limit.

I avoided the trees. I stayed out of the water. I didn’t hit the ducks on 2 or the cars near 9. More important, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. So, let’s add golf to the very short list of sporty activities that I can suck at but still have fun playing. (The others are darts and pool.) Most important, I took a step toward overcoming what I think has to be my biggest handicap:  I don’t actually believe that golf is possible.

I find it incomprehensible that a person can hit a small ball a hundred yards or more and have it end up in that tiny little hole in the ground. And that’s not just a euphemism for the difficulty of the game. I mean I have never believed with my brain that it can happen.

I know that 2 plus 2 is 4. I know if I set a volleyball, a hitter will be able to take a good swing. I know if I take my vitamins, I won’t get sick. I know that, if I mix flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, egg, vanilla, and chocolate chips, some darn good cookies will come out of the oven.

But. That tiny ball that sits much too close to my feet as I fight the urge to back away. That far-away hole (which some talk about aiming for). That club that transmogrifies into a softball bat as soon as it leaves my line of sight on the backswing.

I just don’t believe it can be done.

For many years, that disbelief kept me from playing the game. Me not having a set of clubs didn’t help either.

Friends played a lot and I always felt left out, But I also had no desire to go out and make a total fool of myself and/or mess up their good time. So I did not play golf.

Then something changed. A very dear friend passed away, and a special group of friends began an annual golf outing to honor his memory. How could I care if I made a fool of myself for that?

So I blatantly warned some friends about my lack-of-skill level and put a team in. (And a very special thank-you to life preservers Steve and Nancy who put friendship above winning, not just that first year but each year since, i.e., even after seeing me play. I hope you know how much it means to me. Your kindness and humor and sincere tolerance—well, that’s exactly what that day is all about, isn’t it?)

At these outings, I discovered something. I actually enjoy this odd sport. So, this fall I signed up for lessons via CCAC, the local community college, and ended up at Denise’s Golf Academy. (If you’re looking for a great instructor, I recommend this place.)

Yesterday, the class ended with nine holes of par 3. It was a gorgeous day to be out and about. And on one or two occasions, I got that ball where it needed to go without feeling totally awkward or completely lucky.

I was feeling pretty good afterwards—excited by the lessons learned, uplifted by the gorgeous fall weather—and just not ready to be done. Instead of going home, I stopped at a driving range. Got a bucket.

And, let me tell you, the golfer on the next tee was so impressed with how I was hitting them that he exclaimed more than one loud and boisterous “Wow!”

He was five years old.

Got any golf tips for me?

October 17, 2010 at 3:22 am 9 comments

How to Survive a Blizzard

Been off-line for a bit with no power due to the greatest amount of snow I’ve ever seen while living somewhere that shoveling it was my responsibility. I measured 21 inches on Saturday and have gotten another 5-7 between last night and today. (And it is still snowing.)

I was without power at my house for nearly 80 hours. No lights. No internet. No land-line phone. No stove. No furnace. And, for the first 48 hours or so, no way to leave the neighborhood without a much better pair of boots than those I own.

Am I glad it’s over? Hell yeah. But, it was, as these things often are, not an all-bad adventure and it was, as these things can always be, a learning experience. Here is some stuff I’ve learned.

1. Putting groceries out on the porch is a great idea because food that is ruined because it has frozen does not smell as bad as food that rots inside a refrigerator.

2. Chivas Regal snow cone? Not bad. Not bad at all.

3. In the early 70s, Panasonic made some kick-ass radios. A few posts back, I mentioned that I once had a very cool electric-blue radio shaped like a donut. Well, turns out, that very item was still in a box in the attic. I put in a battery and voi-de-la, after 30 years of non-use, it still worked. (And that is how I got to listen to Super Bowl 44.)

4. My thermostat only goes down to 45 degrees. Beyond that, who knows?

5. If you can see your own breath in your home, you need to be concerned about freezing pipes and . . . makes sense but who knew?. . . freezing toilet bowls and tanks. If turning the water off at the main and leaving immediately for Key West isn’t an option, the thing to do is leave the lowest faucet in the house running at a trickle and add a bit of anti-freeze to toilets and drains.

6. Shoveling snow is a good way to get warm. And, if it is cold enough in your house, even old, out-of-shape muscles do not ache from even the most extreme bouts of shoveling.

7. A well-timed cup of hot coffee can save a life.

8. When bad circumstances arise, people are pretty darn swell. They smile. They wave. They knock on doors. They lend a hand. They invite you in. They help each other shovel it out and laugh it off.

9. When bad circumstances arise, people are pretty damn stupid—like the lady who wouldn’t get out of the street, despite there being a good 10 feet of shoveled space right in front of her and despite the very icy conditions that make it impossible to completely, reliably control a vehicle and despite my very polite, genuinely concerned, and sincerely friendly pre-flight waving and honking before attempting my one and only slip-swerving, white-knuckled, come-on-baby shot to get up hill 1 of 3 to reach Home. Had I not managed to slide by within inches of her motionless, stubborn, hand-on-hip stare, I could have gladly used her fat ass for traction.

10. You can make an almost passable cup of tea with hot tap water.

11. Forget stocking up on T.P. and bread. Stock up on unread books!

12. If you place a lot of candles on cookie sheets lined with tin foil and fashion also a tin foil back drop of sorts, you can generate a bit of heat, do a crossword puzzle without squinting, and throw enough light that a neighbor will call to see if you somehow got your power back on.

13. Mini marts and Rite-Aids do not sell tonic water.

14. If you get dressed in the dark it is impossible to tell if your socks match.

15. You can survive without heat. You can survive without lights. You can survive on a strange variety of foodstuffs. You can survive without internet, facebook, and email. But you cannot survive without family and friends.

Thanks to those who noticed the absence. Thanks to those who tolerated the babbling when I did make contact. Thanks to all who offered help, concern, understanding, and cheer. The cockles of my heart never even caught a chill.

What did you learn in the blizzard of 2010?

February 10, 2010 at 8:59 am 2 comments


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