My mom called me tonight about a half hour after The Kid and I got home from work. She told me that my dad's best friend, Bill, was in town, and would be stopping by to visit tonight around 7pm. I had been home long enough to feed The Kid a pre-dinner pbj, so he'd eaten. I dropped everything and went straight over to her house. I'd drop anything for this friend of my dad's.
We spent the evening talking about our families, the places Bill had lived. He told us about the first time he remembered playing with my dad. Their mothers were planning a dinner at the church, and the two boys were getting into things. There was a ticket booth that they were climbing on, around, and making noise over. In a move that speaks wonders at both the parenting styles of days gone by and the kindred feeling of frustrated mothers everywhere, they gave the boys 20 cents, and shooed them off to the movie theater. Bill and my dad watched a Roy Rogers movie, and were best friends ever since.
He also told me about the time he and my dad ditched school (which I have a feeling was only the tip of the iceberg of that type of story), how they used to take the train up to Denver to stay in a cheap hotel where the famous "cash register" building now stands. He brought us pictures of my dad and their friends. Bill said that heartbreaking thing I've heard before from my dear friend and surrogate Uncle Charlie as we looked at the young faces of my dad and their friends: "I'm the only one left of these guys now."
I would always drop anything to see him. He's a wonderful man, and a wonderful connection to my dad, who I miss so much.
And so, as I drove home, I got to thinking about Shannon, about my friends, and about how once you reach 30, the friends who knew you when mean so much more. Shannon is my oldest friend. Not counting family, Shannon has known me longer than anyone I know today. Shannon, you are my Bill. And I will drop everything for you, any time. I know you have to go to Canada, and I also know that you are going to really love it there. My life has been a series of hellos and goodbyes, but goodbye has always been an easy thing for me. Perhaps this is what happens when your dad dies when you are young, but I think I've learned that few goodbyes are ever truly final. Life is an extraordinary thing, with time and distance and long separations, but we're truly lucky to have memory, and sentiment. Shannon, my dearest, longest held friend: this is only the beginning.