Picture the courthouse square in small town America a few generations ago. Old guys are sitting on the benches. On cold days they would be at the barber shop or the lodge hall. Today they might be found sitting around the commons area at "Outer Mallgolia" or eating breakfast at Bob's Gravy Over Everything Café and Tire Shop. They would be driving down the road in a "Memorymobile" to the town of Reminisce.
The men are old friends. They grew up together and have known each other since childhood. Joe doesn't see the double chins on Howard's neck or notice that his hair, what he has left around the rim of his head, is whiter than a white shirt washed with 20 Mule Team Borax Soap and bleached in the sun for two weeks. He only sees the inquisitive face of a high school friend who helped him get through physics.
Howard doesn't see the hearing aids that Joe wears or note that he teeters a bit when he walks. He sees the guy who scored the goal to win the county basketball tournament and who could jump up and touch the bankboard above the rim as easy as pie.
Woody doesn't notice that Al drifts off to sleep sometimes during their meetings he only sees the fiery red headed jokester with an infectious laugh who was the life of the party. He sees Al entering the high school prom wearing a huge rubber nose on a pair of glasses and a bushy mustache that brought down the house. Al sees Woody standing beside him as he said "I do" and married Brenda the mother of their three wonderful children.
When Marty looks at the 71-year-old Joe whose stomach is larger than his chest he sees the rail thin kid who went skinny dipping with him and hollered Geeeeronimo as he swung over the creek on a grape vine and splashed down into Jack's Creek. Joe sees Marty as they played sandlot baseball on Sunday afternoon. He calls Marty the vacuum because he scooped up every hit that came to third base and rifled it like a cannon shot to him at first base for the out.
There are few secrets between the gang. They have lived in proximity all of their lives and shared joys and heartaches. As Roger Miller sang in King of the Road, "I know every engineer on every train, all of their children all of their names" and they know all of this about each other. They all attend and participate in all of the weddings. They all grieved with Joe whose wife passed a few years ago and helped him through those dark days. They remember the slender bright eyed beautiful girls in white who now have become plump gray haired matrons in comfortable shoes who spoil their grandchildren.
These men never had to wonder who they were -- it was reflected to each other in their eyes. Since they grew up together they never had to worry about friendship because it is there just as it was when they were young. Lonely they do not know. They have each other. They are rich in the friendship they share.
Larry grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School. He lives in Plainfield and can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at Larry Vandeventer 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168. He has written five books.