April 01, 2018

A Tribute to Friendship

Today is opening day of trout season in New York and it’s a bittersweet day for me.  Even though we live just a hop, skip and a jump from a well-known trout stream here in the northeast, I don’t fish, and the season itself doesn’t impact me in any way other than the fact that I’ll notice a number of vehicles parked at the various access points to the stream.  The reason it’s significant is because it was always a special day for my friend Bob.  Bob might possibly have been the first blogger on earth since he was on the job long before the term “blogging” was coined.

I met Bob through his wife Audrey when I began my first full time job as a clerk in the accounting department of a small, local bank.  Audrey was one of the loan officers and she was affectionately known as “Ma G” among the staff since she was the epitome of the most motherly of motherly hens; staff and clients, alike, warmed to her concern.  Just like a mother hen, she could get a little testy, too, especially when one of the chicks didn’t toe the line.  Her husband Bob was a teacher and an ordained minister who possessed an absolutely delightful sense of humor.  I respected him for the thoughtful grace he would say before dinner at our bank’s annual Christmas party and loved him for the stories he could tell that would have his listeners reaching for tissues to wipe away their tears of laughter.  As fellow camping enthusiasts, Alan and I became close to Audrey and Bob over the years.  Every summer, when the school year ended, Bob would tow their fifth wheel up to their favorite lake and Audrey would join him on the weekends.  “I’m off to the mountains!” she would yell as she walked, waving out the back door of the bank late on a Friday afternoon.  When they both retired and moved to Montana to be near their son, Bob took to staying in touch with his extensive network of friends via email.  Whenever his name appeared in my Inbox, I knew I was in for the news of the day from “the cutting edge of civilization,” as he referred to his adopted state.  The news would be followed by jokes, a story or two full of some crazy characters he had invented and prayer requests for those in need.  If blogs had been invented back then, he would have been in his glory.

Once the holidays had passed and the cold northeast winters were wearing themselves out, a certain harbinger of spring would begin to appear in Bob’s daily missives:  “Only six more weeks until trout season opens in New York!”  Of course, by the time March rolled around, we were counting down the days:  “Only fourteen more days until the official opening of trout season in New York!”  I can only imagine how delighted Bob was to type those long awaited words on April 1st of each year:  “Trout season opened today in New York!”

Regular readers may recall that I had mentioned camping with Bob and Audrey in a previous post.  We were visiting Yellowstone on our first National Parks trip with the kids and Bob and Audrey drove down from their home in Montana with their truck camper to join us.  (Yes, they had two RVs.  I told you they were camping enthusiasts!)  We spent a delightful couple of days in the Madison Campground and enjoyed touring the Park together.  Bob just loved our hand-held radios and he had, if I recall correctly, been a ham radio operator back in the day.  His sense of humor was simply impossible to tamp down and, as we watched Old Faithful erupt on schedule, he palmed a radio and began an imaginary conversation with “Sid, the water engineer” who was, allegedly, somewhere in the bowels of the Park and responsible for a crowd-pleasing eruption from the beloved geyser.  As Bob was guiding “Sid” throughout the course of the eruption (“C’mon, Sid, just a little more pressure now.  No, not too much, not yet! . . .), Audrey was rolling her eyes and the rest of us were in stitches.  (As was the lovely lady standing near Bob who was trying very hard to pretend she wasn’t listening to his monologue.)  Sadly, both Bob and Audrey passed away last year, but not before living long and happy lives, married to their best friends, and taking great pleasure in raising two remarkable children and shepherding a whole flock of friends, family and parishioners through life.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park - Good job, "Sid!"

The friendship that Alan and I shared with Bob and Audrey lasted forty years despite the fact that there was an age gap of almost 30 years between us.  Friendship knows no boundaries.  It doesn’t worry about age or race or religion.  Friendship establishes a connection between two or more people – a connection that enriches the lives of everyone involved.  Sometimes, friendships last only for a particular season of our lives.  If we’re truly lucky, we’ll be blessed with one or more friendships that last a lifetime.

I have two friends in my life that I’ve known since I was about 6 years old – and that’s a lot of years ago, people!  I was in grade school with Peg and met Valerie when she moved into our neighborhood.  I couldn't even begin to tell you how much I value these relationships.  Alan and I have both developed friendships through our respective jobs and then lost touch with many of those people as time moved on and individuals moved away.  We cherish and celebrate our long-standing friendships with parents whose children went to school with ours, with community members we’ve met at church or through the library, with former classmates and colleagues and with people we’ve met on our travels – including one young couple who remind me very much of the Alan and me of 30 years ago.  Each friendship is unique and yet we find that every single one of them brings joy to our lives, laughter to our days and a rich and constant warmth to our hearts.  May each of you be so blessed.

Today is April 1st – the first day of trout season in New York.

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