A few months ago, I sent an email to a couple friends from high school about planning a trip together sometime this spring or summer–the year all of us turn 40. We bounced around a few ideas about things to do or places to go, and I thought we’d go on a hiking trip for a few days on the AT, but one in our group broke his leg in a couple places after he followed my lead in jumping through a bonfire at his Halloween party the night before our 20-year reunion, so he said walking on uneven terrain for several miles on a shin filled with screws and rods wouldn’t work, so we opted to plan a kayaking/rafting trip in east Tennessee instead. Several folks committed and decommitted at various times during the trip’s planning, but when we all showed up at our cabins by the Hiwassee River last weekend, there were 6 of us who’d graduated high school together (4 of us went on to undergrad at the same place and then lived near each other afterward, too) and were now about to spent a weekend catching up.
After a night of grilling out and going to some dive bar called Dumpy’s in the middle of nowhere, we got up the next morning to float down the river.
The sun was warm; the water was cold; the stops for hydro defecation by 2 members of our group were far enough away from me that I didn’t fear the burst of E. coli.
We stopped on a small island for lunch. I decided to ram into the guys who were in a canoe–Jim Bob and Jody–right as they hit some rapids. Afterwards, they reciprocated.
We continued down the river.
That night, we grilled out again, listened to music from the late 80s and early 90s, enjoyed our cabins’ hot tubs, downed cold beers, and laughed until my sides hurt. Old colloquialisms were resurrected; old memories were rehashed; old regrets were revealed; old triumphs were re-appreciated. 4am came quickly; it was time for sleep. The next morning, we headed back to Nashville, Birmingham, or Atlanta.
Today I turned 40. I had around 75 people come over for a party last night–a couple from my home town, one from the blogosphere, a few former and current neighbors, and a whole lot of lawyers. A talented musician friend provided live entertainment, and I smoked 2 pork shoulders and 6 racks of ribs that everyone raved about. At one point in the evening, I got a text from one of the guys who went last weekend; his name is Jack, and he’s been one of my favorite people since 1983.
I might have wept, were I not so manly (and surrounded by a bunch of professional colleagues). I reread it a few times today and couldn’t help but be grateful to have been blessed with close friendships I’ve been able to maintain for over 30 years. As I watch my children grow up, I hope they are lucky enough to have quality people in their lives while children and that they put forth the effort required to maintain relationships with these people for the decades that follow. Perhaps they too will one day find that 4 decades have passed and that there are good people whom they still see from time to time who were there for all 4 of them. I certainly hope so.
And I hope I have another 4 decades or so with the ones who were with me for the first 4.