My Friend Tim

[Left to right: Jo, Anna, Tim at the White Lion Inn on our last night in Dorset]

It was August of 1984.  I was about to begin a year in Dorset, England, when I first met Tim Ovenden.  He was destined to be my house-mate in Wimborne Minster (actually a burb of Wimborne, Colehill).  He was a hard working right-out-of-University rookie teacher.  We both taught in the same school and we both taught Geography in the Humanities Department.  We did not socialize much because I’d rather do my paper work in the school and not take it home.  Tim took everything home.  He was energetic, enthusiastic and a very fine teacher.

But we shared few pints in the local pubs.

A few weeks ago, my wife, Mariam and I left Tim’s house in Gillingham, Dorset.  They had an apartment above their garage…and it was ours to use…gratis…a supreme gesture.

A few personal items:

Tim adores his wife Jo.  They have a blended family two sons (George and Thomas) and their daughter Anna who is a talented ballerina.  Tim swipes the towel over his shoulder when he cooks, which is often.  He bakes veggies and cheese.  He listens to Motown on the radio while he holds court in the kitchen.

[Part of the Stour Way Footpath]

Tim is in his 50’s and is more fit than I was in my 30’s.  He golfs, does pilates and walks.  Something I wish I could do again without foot pain.

I’m awed  by Tim’s vigor for life.  His sense of political rightness.  (He was anti-Brexit).  His kindness, his intelligence, love of family and his friendship.

Thank you Tim and Jo and Anna for your hospitality, friendship and remembering me after so many years.  Not to mention wine o’clock.

We’ll be back.

[Photos are mine]

Two Elderly Gentlemen Walk Into A Pub

  JimMerrill&Jiff

An older man walked into a pub in Burlington, Vermont on a recent Saturday afternoon.  It was minutes away from a heavy rain.  The guy went downstairs to the men’s room.  He was there at the pub to meet an old friend and he was about two minutes late.  As he climbed the stairs, he realized he had a problem…he hadn’t seen his friend in 50 years!  He had no idea what he would look like. The man and his wife had already scanned the pub but he saw no one who might remotely look like his old pal.

And he was an old pal.  They played together as children…lived close enough to see each other’s house.  They played “cowboys & indians” in the backyard.  They played “army” in a neighbor’s backyard.  On hot summer nights, they slept on a large back porch, listening for the tire skids and crash as the cars came around “broken-arm” curve in front of one of the boy’s houses.  One of the  backyards stretched to the Susquehanna River…it was a giant playground, war zone and hiding place.  The other boy had The Brick Pond in his backyard.  Skating in the winter…turtle watching in the summer.  It was a small town called Owego, in upstate New York.  It was the 1950’s.

One of the boys brought a new vinyl album over to his friend’s house.  It was the early ’60’s.  He put the record on and said: “Listen to this guy…he’s saying something.”

The friend listened.  He didn’t like what he heard.  It wasn’t Dion.  It wasn’t Fabian.  It wasn’t Frankie Avalon.

“This guy can’t sing…he sounds weird.  I don’t understand what he’s saying.”

The boy with the album knew what was happening.  He heard the words.

The uninformed boy took another year to grasp what was being played that night.  That nasal voice and those complex lyrics.

It wasn’t: “Why must I be a teenager in love?”  It was “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Later, during their last year of high school, they sat on the front porch of one of the boy’s houses and talked about the future.  Their paths were about to diverge forever, or nearly forever.  One of them was destined for college the other for Viet Nam.  Their lives grew apart and they lost touch…not to see each other for another 50 years.

The old man climbed the stairs from the restroom.  On the deck was a man talking to his wife.  He felt as though he had never seen this guy before.  He had a cane.  He looked a bit old, like so many men do when they get to their late sixties.

The stranger talking to his wife was the old friend.  They embraced after 50 years.  Both had been through highs and lows, good times and bad.  Divorces and deaths.

They weren’t two kids with stick swords in a weedy backyard anymore.  Time had carried them to the outside deck of the pub in Burlington.  Time had given them a stoop in the shoulders.  Time had taken away their dark hair.  Time had given them illnesses and joint pains and muscle aches.

They used to fish in the Susquehanna River with a stick and a string and a cheap hook.  They each had gone through a fly-fishing stage in the middle years.  They won’t be sharing this, most likely.

Calendar pages fall to the floor.  The man had a cane…it fell to the floor.  Someone picked it up.  Things are so different.

It took half a century before Jimmy Merrill and Pat Egan met again.

It started to rain heavily.

Jim&PatSept6'14