Friday, August 2, 2013

Best Friends

By Rob Watson

More than a half century ago, when I was six years old, My parents had a retail business. In the block, half the businesses faced East and half west. A small alley ran behind the buildings. The rear of each business opened onto this alley. Here trash was deposited and collected every few days. In the days before large plastic trash receptacles and dumpsters, the businesses used large cardboard boxes. Two of these businesses were furniture stores. Thus a large and ready supply of large cardboard boxes was available to everyone.

It was not unusual for the children, such as myself, of the business owners to play in and around the trash boxes. They made great fortresses and hiding places. Large trash trucks would drive down this alley to pick up the trash. Also, some of the employees were volunteer fire fighters. When the city fire alarm sounded, these men would race down the alley, in their cars, to get to the fire station two blocks away. It was the greatest fear of these parents, that one or more of their children would be killed by one or the other of these means. None ever were, protected as we were by vast ignorance and total disregard of our parents demands and commands.

One day, of unknown date and time, Jim and I met, we claim, crawling through the same trash box. He was seven months younger than me, but a whole year behind in school because of state law. Together we were in Cub Scouts, boy scouts, little league baseball... We were great adventurers, at least until real life raised its ugly head. Separation by time and distance would mark the whole of our friendship. We lived on opposite sides of town. They built a new school. He went to the new one, me to the old. He worked in his parents store, me in mine. Just as we were to be in high school together, his parents sold out and moved to another city.

After one year of college we were together again. After a few months my parents bought me a small house trailer. It was 40ft X 8Ft (13m X 2 1/2m). Jim moved in. The college town was 'dry', and, the nearest liquor store was 22 miles away. A wet bar quickly popped up in my trailer. It became the center of activities after adventuring, studying, and work were done. The long term result being a very close, relaxed relationship. In later years we would sit for extended periods without speaking, sipping tea (we both mostly gave up liquor after college) and watching the woods behind his house.

It was during this time that I developed most of the principles by which I relate to others. Cook the meals together. Wash the dishes together. Clean the house together. Repair all the broken things together. Getting mad solves no problems. Keeping the mouth shut and walking away keeps things from going bad to worse. Keep track of all expenses, food, utilities. Settle up at the end of every month. When he does something nice for me. It is my task to find something to do nice for him. Honesty in thought, word, and action is a must. (But, there is such a thing as being too honest, at least with words.) I respect your choices. You respect mine. When they conflict, compromise. Then, there are such things as too much together and too much help. Not every problem needs an immediate solution.

There are always people who want to give too much. Fortunately only a few try to take too much. Fair is fair. I accept those things you wish to do for me. Then, you must allow me to do things for you. Over the years, when a relationship seemed out of balance, I would ask myself, "how would I behave if this were Jim?"

My plan, over all these intervening years, was to move near Jim and we would spend our retired years as great adventurers again. When Wife finally closed her business and we became able to execute this plan. On a Saturday before Thanksgiving, on my way to visit my friend of more than 60 years, I got a call from his son. It was the notice of the ultimate separation. "Mister Robert, Daddy died last night."

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