I have this friend. We’ve known each other for, oh- something like just over four decades. We met at my first real, adult scale job. He was one of the celebrated computer engineers at our mutual company when I was a young get-er-done technician in the R&D lab. I got to build whatever our brain trust designed. Something about our personalities meshed and a very long and diverse friendship took root.
We pranked each other. We backpacked together. We jury-rigged broken camping gear and fought with nasty surprise weather together. We dodged at least one bear (whoops – excuse us sir as we quietly leave) and mastered the art of ground navigation with a compass and topographical map.
He was nearby when I discovered the downsides of letting your body run low on salt, yea – salt (which is another story you don’t want to learn about first hand – turns out that we really do need this stuff) and I was nearby when a wind came along while he and I were part-way up Half Dome in Yosemite. This wind rolled both of us across the north face of the monument where the rangers put up a cable walkway part of the year. The cables were there this day but no walkway, so we tried to free climb the cables. He decided that he couldn’t or wouldn’t continue to the top but waited for me while I pressed on – scared to death, but unwilling to give up. Later around a campfire we reviewed and laughed at the day’s mental meals – the new experiences we would never forget.
For a couple of key years when I was less than 22 years old, I grew up often sleeping on what became a family heirloom couch that he and his family still have. Each morning, his young children would mob the room to wake me up and beg me to make french toast using a recipe that their parents never heard of (somehow their mom never thought of adding vanilla extract and melted butter) and their mom decided to just let this become the signature reasons for keeping me around so we could continue making a great breakfast time memories with the kids. I took my time playing with kids and grew to love them.
The best fun we had was telling each other life stories and laughing. Lots of camp fires suffered minimal maintenance while he and I laughed at childhood adventures.
Late last week he called to let me know he was passing near my home town and asked if doing lunch made sense. I never miss the chance to spend some time with him and we did a catch up on life, family news and, of course, reviewed several of our favorite stories. We quickly passed the hugs and hand shakes at seeing each other again and got on with the business of loud laughing and disturbing all the other diners nearby.
We corrected each other’s memories and reminded each other of stories long forgotten. He also told me that over the years, his family still can’t have french toast for breakfast without reviewing the memories of when Gary was hanging around.
Rich mental meals indeed.