MY FRIEND JOANN AND ME (no wonder my brothers teased me)

I got the chance to catch up with an old friend from my childhood. We were best friends for a couple of years a long  time ago. We were quite the odd pair of friends, but we were inseparable.

Our friendship started the way most of them do. By chance, dumb luck or destiny.

I was nine years old and school had just recessed for summer. Summer time was my specialty.. I may have struggled in school, but for this occasion I was a natural.

My brother had a girl friend who lived around the block. Her sister had just finished her Junior year of college. The word on the street was that she was going to be a teacher.

My mom seized the opportunity for a would be teacher who lived right around the block to start her career a little early. I was a mathematical slacker who’s summer and life was about to be altered forever.

Her name was JoAnn, and we became fast friends. She was the first adult person to treat me like an individual. This was the era of “children should be seen not heard.” Unlike most of the other adults, JoAnn didn’t wait until I earned respect to give me respect. She was very much ahead of her time.

JoAnn’s wisdom was the foundation for our friendship. On that foundation we built a relationship that it still supports almost forty years later.

We had a blast. We joked, we shared our dreams and desires. We spent almost everyday of the summer mornings together. JoAnn worked for her dad during the summers operating a catering truck, and I was the official assistant,┬áriding in the passenger seat looking through the backward letters that read, “NO RIDERS.”

JoAnn came to many of my baseball games and was my biggest fan whether we won or lost. We shared all the parts of our lives like best friends do.

As the old adage goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and so did our summers. JoAnn would head back to college and I would start my next year of grade school, much improved at multiplication due to my friend.

We would do it again the next summer, but after that JoAnn and Spike got married and moved out of state to start working on the dreams she had shared with me.

I’ll never forget the night before she headed back to college that first summer. We were reminiscing our summer as I was walking her back home to her parents house. Her tears turned into a cry, followed by mine. I guess you have to be pretty good friends to be as sad as we were, being forced by life to say goodbye to one another.

As we were catching up, I shared with her how old my kids were now and what they were up to. I also shared with her how special our summers were to me and assured her of the spot in my heart carved out just for her and our special friendship. I added how blessed I thought all those kids were to have had such an amazing teacher who made them feel special and inspired them to learn.

JoAnn shared with me as we were catching up that her and Spike just celebrated their 37th anniversary. She let me know how all her kids were doing and where they were. She also proudly told me the names and ages of all her grandchildren.

My good friend who always made me feel special managed to do it one more time. JoAnn wrote, “You know it wasn’t a coincidence that when I started my teaching career I wanted to teach kids your age”!

Isn’t that how God works? The events in our lives are not by coincidence. One friendship can impact many lives in a positive way, even if we never planned to.

During the reflection process of our friendship I realized the style of coach I am, and how I interact with young people is a direct reflection of the person who taught me with her actions… JoAnn.

All those kids x all those years = multiple thousands. I’m still no math wizard, but even I know the beginning of this equation.

It is one + one, my friend JoAnn and me.