A Belated Birthday Dedication Letter

Chris,

Ever since we were–what, 7?–I have known that your birthday was either September 9 or 11. Then that thing happened, and the date was forever solidified in my brain. It isn’t 9 or 11, it’s 9-11.

Numbers aside, I’m glad we’re still friends, and lately I’m realizing how much our friendship shaped who I am.

When my own son asks to watch Star Wars or “Star Trek,” I recall childhood memories of watching the original series in your 100-year old farmhouse living room. I remember that you had cool Star Wars toys. Or were those your brother’s?

I remember your TRS-80 computer and your Micronauts, your tiny electronic motors that we wired to “D” cell batteries just to watch them spin. Later, while at your house I read Omni and Popular Science. They were quite different from the reading found at my own house, and sparked an interest in science that still burns to this day. I remember bending in closer to study the huge, yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) that spun its impressive web next to your barn.

When I see my son thrilled by the prospect of Robotics Club, I imagine that you and I would have joined had it been available to us. I don’t doubt it for a moment.

It dawns on me while writing this that I’m passing down to my son the same passions I developed with you.

My older brother was not interested in any of those things. While I owe him for any athletic inclinations and skills I have, and countless social skills, growing up with you just a bike’s ride down the road drew out my geeky passions.

I’m glad you were drawing spaceships that day in 2nd grade. It started something bigger than I could have imagined.

The First Buffalo National River Trip I Planned

Foggy Morning Restaurant View

Last summer I returned to one of my favorite places — the Buffalo National River, and five friends from Texas joined me. At age 44, it would be my first time on the Buffalo with anyone other than my family. When these guys originally asked me to get a trip together back in May, I was pumped. Then they said it had to be in August. Not much of the river usually is floatable in the middle of August without a lot of getting out and dragging the boat.

You might think that it’s difficult to get lost when floating down a waterway that only leads in one direction. I managed it easily, but that comes later.

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To Local Friends Who Soon Will be Remote

We’ve lost weight, gained weight, and learned how to sit and wait. We’ve endured sunburns and broken bones, stomach flus and kidney stones.

Largely thanks to Shannon’s activity during Benjamin’s elementary school years, we have met many others who have children of similar age. We have shared laughs, likes, dislikes, and dining tables. We’ve built things, torn them down, and leaned upon shoulders that sometimes were already overburdened. We have rocked Rock Band like only 30 and 40-somethings can. We have walked many 3k’s and 5k’s — a few to celebrate a friend’s victory over cancer while remembering those less fortunate.

One week from today, the only house our son remembers, and the one where your children have slept over and endured my homemade breakfasts, will no longer be our home.

Watching us bring up a boy from age 2 to age (almost) 11, you have seen us at our best and our worst, yet you have remained beside us all the way. I hope you feel we’ve done the same.

I didn’t care much for children besides my own until I got to know yours. Partially miniature versions of you, and increasingly their own tiny selves, they won a place in my heart.

This isn’t goodbye. We aren’t moving half a country away. We will come visit here, and will welcome you there. We are, and forever shall be, your friends.

Remembering AJ

In August of 2012 I found myself in a CVS Pharmacy restroom in Conway, Arkansas, changing from casual clothes into a black suit. I was fortunate that it was a clean men’s room.

A few days before that, through the modern device of online social media I found out that a college friend had passed away. He was nearly 10 years my senior, but still not what I generally consider “old enough” to die.

IchthusA trucker by trade, AJ was licensed to drive large groups. Many times we all crammed ourselves into a 13-passenger van and AJ safely guided the vehicle to our destination — sometimes more than 1000 miles roundtrip. I don’t know whether he knew it, but he missed out on some of the camaraderie by being up there behind the wheel.

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Canada: The Shots That Time Forgot (Part 2)

(Also see the first Canada : The Shots That Time Forgot)

I left this out of my post-trip posts because I thought it warranted an entry all its own. It made a big impression on me and left me with a big question.

There’s a sport in Canada, created by a Canadian, played only in Canada. Since 1909 it has been putting a different spin on a sport that has been marginalized in the United States.

I’m talking about five-pin bowling, a less strenuous but not easier form of the 10-pin game seen elsewhere. The ball is substantially smaller and lighter than in traditional bowling, and the pins are smaller and spaced farther apart.

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I approached the ball return, which looked exactly like any other, and chose one of the marbled balls. There were no holes for my fingers, and this was just as well since my large knuckles rarely allow me to properly grasp a full-size bowling ball unless I choose one that’s far too heavy for me. My geeky arms immediately thanked me for traveling to Canada. So much lighter was their burden, they barely noticed.

I looked down the lane at the five paltry pins, downright dainty little things. This was going to be easy. I didn’t know the top score possible in this adorable game, but I surely would approach if not reach it.

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