Hey, Jimmy…I can’t bring myself to call you James. For most of my life you’ve been Jimmy, so there it is. Mariam and I were in Burlington just this past weekend. As I wandered up and down Church Street I kept wondering where the restaurant was that we met for the first time in over 50 years. Mariam said she remembered which block it was on. I wondered how you were doing…
I was remembering the old days in Owego. Craig Phelps was probably the nearest neighbor (he lived across the street from me, remember?). But you were the next closest. Your house was just across the RR tracks and hard by the Brick Pond. Boy, did we have fun exploring the Pond in those days when only a handful of kids knew about it? You and I spent endless hours in our backyards playing “cowboys & indians” and army games with my brother and ‘Doc’ Phelps. That was quite a time. It was the time of our lives when few troubling things touched us.
Innocent children. Innocent young boys playing in fields near the Susquehanna. Fields of fair games and fair play. Fields of Youth.
We were rarely ever apart in our years at St. Patrick’s School. It was in OFA…high school…that we drifted apart. We hung in different circles of friends.
Then one day (was it 1964? 1963?) you brought over an album for me to listen to. We sat on our sofa at 420 Front Street and I heard the voice of Bob Dylan for the first time. I was a Dion fan. I didn’t get Bob at all. I said: “This guy can’t sing”. It was about a year later when I heard “Like a Rolling Stone” on a radio station when I was driving back from working at Carroll’s Hamburgers in Vestal.
I got it. You gave it to me.
Later, we sat on the steps of my house and you talked about this thing happening in Viet Nam. I was too wrapped up in my girlfriend and plans for college to fully understand…in 1965…what was happening.
You enlisted and you served with honor and I heard you got a medal of some kind for bravery.
Jimmy, you fell below the radar after high school and I did not hear anything about you until I was asked to try to locate you for the 50th Reunion in September of 2015. Things happened and I was able to find your phone number. I called and we met for lunch in Burlington. Such a great time we had…remember? We recalled the old days and caught up on how “not well” you were.
I wrote a blog about our lunch. It was quite popular among our Owego friends.
Then, this morning, I get some news on Facebook about you. News that made me weep for a time as I reflected on our history.
We’ll never explore the Brick Pond again, Jimmy. We’ll never play war games in our backyards. Ever again.
Wait, that’s not true…I’ll always remember the times we had and the growing up we did together. I’ll recall those childhood games again and again to keep your memory alive. I’ll walk around the Brick Pond again…in your honor.
RIP, my good, gentle and great old buddy. I’m gonna miss you…….You are the friend I’ve known the longest…in my life.