Carry on my wayward son. There’ll be peace when you are done.
Shared memories with a soulmate over soup, salad and breadsticks.
In the late 70s, Duck and I were reciprocal touchstones. Through life’s ups and downs, through each others
romantic pursuits – requited and unrequited, through all the uncertainties and missteps wrapped up with being 18 to 21 years old, Duck and I embodied the definition of friendship.
We had each other.
We met at Mr. D’s IGA in the Sweetbriar Shopping Center in Wichita. I sacked, carried out and stocked Smucker
Grape Jelly on shelves. She womanned the courtesy booth, sold postage stamps and counted the money. At 19, Duck got me a second job as a lunchtime waiter in the swanky Wichita Club high atop what was then the Vickers/KSB&T Building downtown. Today it’s the Executive Centre.
We drifted apart the way young upwardly mobile professionals did in the 20
century. Moving and shaking our way to career success. We re-connected the way people do in the 21
Everybody in our clique had nicknames. Hers preceded her to the supermarket. They called me “Michael J.”
Duck wore headscarves reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. My platforms and polyester smacked of Travolta.
Five constants in our lives, cyclical and interwoven: Parties. Night clubs. Music. Mood-altering substances. Work.
A couple of bites into the salad, we’d each named people from those days no longer around. As in dead. Another friend who got knocked up, had the baby and named her Rhiannon. Wherever she is on Earth today, Rhiannon’s gotta be pushin’ 40.
Parallel trends discovered by the second breadstick. After we lost track of one another, for each of us came the subsequent slow realization that trouble may be lurking.
The 80s would be a decade of dark clouds and denial. Duck married a kid I went to high school with. He was killed in a car wreck just months after their wedding.
Michael J. and Duck. 40 years later.
Today, Duck’s a hotshot banker type and I do what I do. But that stuff’s ancillary. Neither of us lead with our career anymore. We no longer confuse professional success with personal growth. Like me, Duck keeps it pretty simple these days.
We’re on a long river, whose tributaries began in the shiny hopes, dreams and
naiveté of young people. We led ourselves into temptation. Delivered ourselves to evil’s front porch.
We’ve both always believed in God. I remember some pretty cosmic conversations back in the day. Back then, the active practice – and even consideration – of faith was tamped down a layer or two beneath the self-obsession.
For each of us, faith is much closer to the surface today. We recognize the gifts, the signs. We need no longer be whacked upside the head with a 2 by 4.
Through all the broken hearts, the angst, the trouble, the shoulder crying, there’s no getting around one pure, undeniable fact.
We had fun. Those were, in fact, the days.
As we travel the broad highway leading inevitably to the precipice of middle age, our hard charging, emotion-infused, live-for-the-moment days of wine and roses are but fond memories.
What changed? Maybe we grew up.
By the time the check arrived, we’d reflected on those years not so much as drama, but as life experience. Every party, every youthful indiscretion, every circumstance adding up to understanding, wisdom even. The magic stamp of legitimacy.
We survived. We’re still here.
Duck and me are confident there’s a reason. Today, we’re content not having to know what it is.