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Some People Come And Go, But Friends From Southwest Virginia? They Stay.
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Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:
I suppose this morning I could write about Virginia Tech’s still improving basketball team. Or the NFL playoffs. Or even the Washington Capitals running out of gas in a shootout with the always hated Penguins.
But I can’t get the text I received during halftime of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game off my mind. It was from my old friend Rick, who I’ve known since junior high in Norfolk, played dozens of rounds of golf with, and text back and forth snide remarks about local sports teams with when the Hokies or a Washington team is playing.
“Since you are not on Facebook you probably don't know I had a heart attack Thursday,” the text starts out, with all the matter-of-fact tone as if he was going to finish the text with “and then I drove to the store and got a gallon of milk.”
Rick is one of those friends I’ve known just about all my life that I was mentioning yesterday in this story, and to say it was a shock is an understatement. He’s a golf superintendent, so he logs more miles walking before 9 AM than I will all week. He has no family history of heart issues, and while he still eats like a college kid at times, he’s in relatively good shape for a guy whose age starts with a “6.”
We were just texting during the national championship college football game Monday. When the weather is decent, we have a standing appointment to play golf at his course as often as possible. Rick calls it “cheaper than a shrink,” because when you’ve known a person for that long, a 4-hour conversation in a golf cart can be a rich oil capable of soothing the soul no matter what life’s current situation.
You start the round exchanging pleasantries, go back in time to remembering being on the Stumpy Lake Golf Course out in Virginia Beach as 16-year-olds, then talk about sports, marriages, raising kids, even how our classmate Wendy Rieger on Channel 4 is the same age as both of us, yet still looks younger. Lies are told, triumphs re-lived, current life situations are vented.
Many a time the expression “I don’t remember it quite that way” is said, (there’s also a phrase similar to bovine waste products used) and attacks are made on each other’s memory, manhood and ability to play. By the end of the round, you’ve solved nothing, but you feel better because you’ve talked about things, you realize you’re not the only person in the world to struggle with an issue, and you go on until next week’s discussion of a brand new set of problems.
This is what old guys with old friends do.
“What happened?” I said, immediately calling. The explanation may have been scarier than the initial news because what he described could and does happen to many of us. He had been carrying something into the house and didn’t feel that good. His wife quickly noticed something seemed wrong and said they should call the rescue squad.
“I’d have told my wife I’m fine, and that I just needed to go lay down for an hour,” I told him. “What did you do?”
Rick replied “I told her I was fine and just needed to go lay down for an hour.”
An hour later, however, he was riding in an ambulance in pretty serious shape. His wife probably saved his life.
I immediately relayed this information to my wife, who said “you men never listen. It’s a good thing you have us. His wife probably saved his life.”
No arguments here. Although I KNEW that’s what my wife was going to say.
Rick’s fine now, as the good doctors at the nearby University of Virginia hospital where he was this weekend immediately took action to fix the problem. He’s under the watchful care of his wife, he said, as he sadly told me he now was going to have to eat salads and exercise for the rest of his days.
As any old friend would do, I told him I was thankful he was now fine, I loved him like the brother I never had, and would drive to wherever he was staying and kick his ass if he didn’t do as his wife said.
I relayed this to my wife, and she responded by telling me I couldn’t have any ice cream after dinner.
Even Maggie knows Rick, because he’s as big a dog lover as I am. His dog is named “Bacon,” and we’ve been known to trade photos suggesting that each of our dogs is somewhat superior to the other’s. I often show them to Maggie and she perks up when seeing them. I think she really likes Rick’s dog, but it could be she is just reacting to the word “Bacon” in a context other than a fellow canine.
All I know is, last night when taking Maggie out for the last time, I found myself sitting in a lawn chair with my head bowed, hands clasped, thanking God for sparing Rick this time. Old friends who can look you in the eye and tell you the truth are more valuable than gold.
I almost lost one Thursday.
So if you’ve got an old friend like that, don’t take them for granted. Appreciate them. Tell them you love them. Yeah, it'll embarass them, but they'll get over it. I even started a text last night with “I don’t want you to get a big head or anything, but…”
Because in the blink of an eye…