We were walking along the old downtown streets. I was bringing up the rear, following my wife and youngest daughter. We were out of state in a community we’d never been before, enjoying the ocean air. I happened to be looking down at my phone listening to a message when shouting brought my head up.
My wife was startled and immediately worried what my response might be under those circumstances. I don’t have a great track record for self-control or maturity… Christian or otherwise. I could feel my wife watching me as I hit the “end” button on my phone, looking up to hear and face the local heckler.
It’s amazing how quickly the mind works in moments like that. My furrowed brow offered enough shade for my squinting eyes to observe the source of potential trouble, but things weren’t adding up; a heckler in an affluent community, midday, the vehicle carrying the loudmouthed heckler was a very expensive German-made one.
Time and a Johnny-come-lately-wisdom told me there was more to the scenario. I strained my aging eyes to focus on the driver. A wide smile covered his face… That’s when two and two finally added up. My furrowed brow instantly pulled toward the sky, the corners of my mouth followed suit. “He got me,” I mumbled.
We’ve been trying to “get” each other almost every year on our birthdays most of our lives. His birthday is the day before mine. It has been years since technology has robbed us of that potential to “get” each other over the telephone. I quickly thought back over the days before caller ID.
We’d try to disguise our voices and address one another in an official tone and title, “Mr. Jones – This is officer O’Malley from the California Highway Patrol, ” I’d start in an attempt to fool my old friend. Not too much different than he’d tried on me before. It didn’t matter that it rarely worked, it was the thought that counted.
As my old friend, JC went to park, my childhood flashed through my mind. I don’t see my fifty-year-old friend – I see my friend the way he was when we were kids. I remember him skidding to a stop in front of my driveway. I’d hop on his handlebars and we’d sail downhill to school in record time.
I thought back to the times we’d come out of the lake with our hair put into the shape of a horn sticking out from our head and ask a tourist walking by what time it was… My head throbbed thinking about the times we’d cracked our football helmets against each other at full speed during the pre-season football practices. Pretty sure I got the worst end of that game too.
I considered all the New Years Eve’s we spent with one another over the decades. I couldn’t wait to ask JC how his now-grown sons were doing, remembering playing tag with them when they were little.
We both smiled like the little kids we once were as we shook hands and hugged one another like long-lost brothers. I couldn’t see age in my old friend… only the person I’ve known most of my life. What a birthday surprise to run into my friend on my birthday… Coincidence? Not likely.
“After all these years – I can’t believe you got me!” I said laughing. JC just laughed and added, “I did!” You’d think at this age I’d be past that kind of thing… I guess not…
That’s one of those good games… You know, the best kind… The kind where even when you lose…