“If we wave at him, he’ll blow his horn.”
My friend Brian and I were on a road trip together, exploring the oldest alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. Just north of the Marshall County town of La Paz, a bridge carries US 31 over these railroad tracks. We had stopped our car nearby, and walked out onto the bridge.
We waved, and sure enough, the engineer blew the horn.
Brian and I met in the seventh grade, as former sixth graders from several elementary schools on South Bend’s southeast side all came together in middle school. Who knows why people click and friendships happen, but we clicked, and friendship happened. We’re still friends today, more than 40 years later.
I miss how close we were in our school days. He want to one Indiana college and I another, and then he and his wife moved to New Jersey for a job while I stayed put. In these pre-email days we exchanged the occasional letter, but I wondered if our friendship had irrevocably changed and would fizzle out. That thought was painful.
Several years later they moved to Indianapolis, where I was living. They happened to buy a house about a mile away, and their kids were in the same age bracket as mine, and so we saw a lot of each other. When my marriage ended, Brian kept meeting with me to help me through. He even testified at my divorce trial.
Then they moved back to South Bend when Brian’s wife got a really good job at Notre Dame. I was a little jealous of them getting to live in our hometown again! I saw less of Brian, of course. When I was in South Bend and rang him up, our habit was to visit this little Irish pub downtown and talk while we sipped Irish whiskey. Another time, when I was badly depressed after a very rough year, Margaret and I drove up to South Bend to get away and Brian and his wife met us at a popular downtown restaurant for dinner and drinks. It was exactly what I needed to start to pull myself out of that funk.
Brian stayed in South Bend until his kids had all grown up. The youngest was entering college when he and his wife decided to move to North Carolina to be close to the headquarters of the company Brian worked for.
Just as when he moved to New Jersey, I found their move to North Carolina to be challenging. I liked it that I could pop up to South Bend to see him! His North Carolina home is ten hours away by car.
Over the years both of us have made other friends, some of whom have become closer to us than he and I ever were. There were times Brian came to Indianapolis and didn’t call because he had made big plans with another friend. Sometimes I went to South Bend and didn’t call because I had made family plans. But contrary to my long-ago worries, our friendship never fizzled. Whenever we did see each other, it was always easy and comfortable.
Last summer Brian texted that he was in town, and wondered if we could meet for lunch. I’m so glad I was available.