It was August of 1991 and I had just moved to Morgantown for Round 3 of my college experience. I promised myself (and my parents… because they forced me) that this time would be different and I was going to focus on classes and learning and actually graduating from college. Not just the fun stuff like partying and boys (which, for the record, was pretty fun).
In an attempt to follow through on that promise, I walked into my Intro to Biology class and took a seat right up front. Normally, I would sit somewhere in the back so the professor would not necessarily know that I was too hungover to show up for a lecture. This time, though, I planned to show up every day. It was a pretty large class – almost a hundred students – and people began filling in every other seat, all the way to the back of the lab. Then, just as class was about to begin, an old man came in and sat down in the seat right next to me.
Now, when I say “old man,” you should realize that I had the perspective of a self-centered twenty-year-old, so anybody who looked like they could legally buy me beer was automatically “old.” It turns out that this particular old man was only about thirty. He kept whispering ornery and sarcastic comments to me throughout the class, and even though he used the word y’uns way too often, I decided that we should be friends.
So friends we became. We would talk before class and we got to know each other pretty well. He had been happily married for a few years and his wife, now a pharmacist, worked as a paralegal at a local law firm. I naturally looked to him for advice and approval when Sheepdog and I started dating a few months into the semester. It was not hard to see the Marine in him when he met my fiancé for the very first time. Protective and annoying, he was like the big brother I had always wished for. We all became very good friends during our time at WVU. And it was no surprise when he was the one who stood next to Sheepdog as his Best Man at our wedding. It was also no surprise (especially to the girl who originally befriended him for his ornery ways) that his speech included the wish for our marriage that “all of [our] ups and downs be between the sheets.”
Afterwards, Sheepdog and I moved to Alabama for work and then back to New Jersey to be closer to my family. The Marine hadn’t yet graduated, so he and his wife (and their awesome kid/ golden retriever, Gracie) stayed in Morgantown. When we traveled to West Virginia to visit Sheepdog’s family, we would often work in visits to see the Marine and the Paralegal/ Pharmacist as well. But once we started having our own kids it got harder and more inconvenient to make that extra stop. And since we kept having kids, our get-togethers became less and less frequent. They moved away. We moved again. And again. Ironically, we all ended up in Georgia at one point and they came to visit us, but it was not the same.
Then last spring, we caught up with them at a couple of art shows where the Marine was selling bowls that he carves from reclaimed wood. They invited us up to their home in North Carolina and we all went up the mountain to visit them last May. We went on long walks and made jam and s’mores and told stories around the campfire. It was awesome.
We had so much fun that we invited ourselves back this past weekend. We rode on the 4-wheeler and hiked some new trails and watched the playoff games in front of a roaring fire with an awesome spread of layered nachos, buffalo wings and pizza. The Marine took me out to his range and let me shoot his .40 pistol, as always emphasizing safety and reinforcing proper technique. We compared abilities to assemble and disassemble things while blindfolded under pressure in the dark (things like heavy fire or conditions involving vomit or poop) – him an M-16, me a crib. Still protective and annoying. Still just like the big brother I had always wished for.
There are many times in my life that I live in the moment. Then there are times when I am a little more contemplative. This weekend had both. I continue to be amazed by the seemingly random circumstances which have brought certain people into my life. And I will continue to be grateful evermore.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…