I have this memory of senior year in high school. It was my last day in my walking class and, at the end, there went me and my best friend since Kindergarten, Alex, was next to me. We ran into the the largest lake in town and then, in that moment, I never thought our lives would change.
See, as far back as I can remember, Alex has been there. From the time I was so little that I thought the fish in Stella Lake were going to eat my toes. The other time, when I crashed my bike and – like the great friend she is – she tripped over the bike trying to walk it back to her house. The first time I watched the movie The Exorcist, you can bet your ass that Alex was sitting right next to me. Just like all the times I had a broken heart and just needed my best friend to talk me through it. The night I almost died, she was the one who stayed at the hospital until I was out of surgery – just in time to pull those IV cords right out of my damn arm. I guess the point of all these funny – at least, funny now – memories is that, within a few years, our friendship diminished after the day in the lake.
There I was, on the east cost, living up my life as a Marine. There she was, marrying a solider and moving to Texas. We rarely crossed paths and when we did, it was for fleeting hours – not nearly enough time to rekindle an 18-year-long relationship. The longer I was gone, the less we talked and – like so many other people from my little hometown – slowly we fell out of each others lives.
A couple years later, we somehow both ended up back in Wisconsin, but in different towns. When I go home, I try to make it a point to see her, but life has a way of flying by. That’s okay, though. I mean, some people fade out of your life and you have those memories of graduation, summer camp or band to hold on to. Too frequently, though, we put off sending a quick message just a little too long. Sometimes, the next time we see our friend, they’re looking at us from the picture on their obituary. Other times, you receive the rare opportunity to spend time with them on a random weekend, many summers later.
I guess that, in the process of becoming an adult and moving through life, we forget about the people that were around us before we left home for “the big ol'” whatever we left for. Sometimes, we might run into them in a Denny’s down the road from our apartment and, other times, they show up on our news feed with a dog, a husband and three babies. Maybe we’re not meant to send them a message, but I don’t think we’re meant to forget the friends of our youth. I just think that, sometimes, we get so caught up in being successful, functioning adults that we forget the people who laughed beside us on our journey through adolescence and through our journey to becoming us.