I ran into a guy who was my best friend from first grade up to my departure for the Navy in 1966. I am struck by how we change with time.
From first grade on James and I were inseperable. One of us was at the other's house all the time. We double dated, built cars together and just generally were comfortable in each others company.
James hasn't changed much appearance wise and we recognized each other immediately. What has changed is all mental.
After high school I went to college and James didn't, but during vacations we picked up right where we left off and hung around together like we always had. I got married while in college and James married his high school girlfriend. When I finished college I went to Pensacola, Fl for Naval flight training and James took over his father's drug store.
I dropped out of the Naval flight training program because I could see that I was going to kill myself and went to Vietnam in 1968 where I spent most of the year in the Bassac River. At least I didn't get killed but I formed some very strong opinions about how to fight a war.
When I returned from Vietnam, I was due for shore duty which I thought I would spend in San Diego. Wrong. My detailer, thats the guy in Washington who assignes officers to their next job/ duty, wanted me to do my shore duty in Vietnam. I immediately told him he was crazy since I had only returned 2 months ago. Well, he rummaged around in the billet pot and came up with wintering over in Antartica testing cold weather clothing. Again I said no thanks since I had a wife and 2 kids I wanted to be with.
I got out of the Navy in 1969 and went to work for Johnson & Johnson in Sherman, Texas which started me out on a career manufacturing pharmaceuticals. Over the next 37 years I was relocated 29 times by various pharmaceutical companies. I lived in North Carolina (8 seperate times),Georgia, Kansas, New York, Puerto Rico (twice), Arizona, Illinois, California (twice),New Jersey, Maryland, Italy, and South Carolina. I know that doesn't add up to 29 but some moves were duplicates. I have furniture that made all of those moves and still looks like new. You learn after a couple of moves to watch the packers.
During all those years, James never moved more than 20 miles from where he grew up. He didn't go to Vietnam. He took a trip to Europe once and went to the Carribian a couple of times. He has never widened his circle of close friends beyond the ones he had when we were growing up.
When I saw James I thought, Great we'll have some fun like old times. Wrong. After about 30 minutes of talking we had nothing in common. We both started squirming like we were sitting on a hot rock. The proverbial pregnant pause hung over us like a cloud and we finally said our goodbyes.
As I was driving home I thought how was it that just yesterday ( it does feel like only yesterday) we could talk and laugh for hours and feel totally relaxed with each other? What changed? The answer is simple: We changed. I hope for the better.