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Posts Tagged ‘old friends’

The longer I live the more apparent it is to me that people change, not their basic personalities so much, their attitudes or even their belief systems, little things that change them as individuals. Not the least change is they get older, live without shared experiences and they are maybe wiser, maybe not. These changes in yourself and in the people you once knew well make it difficult to go back, to go home. Perhaps more difficult is, at least in this country of untrammeled growth, the place of home changes.

I guess I’ll always think of Phoenix as home. Both Rosalie and I grew up here. We went to grade school here and high school. When we went to high school there were only three high schools in Phoenix, Phoenix Union, North and West. I went to North, Rosalie, a year behind me, went to West. Probably a good think we didn’t know each other then, those inevitable changes. When I graduated from North High in 1954 I suppose there were not more than a hundred thousand people living in Phoenix, maybe fewer.

In 1961 I opened the Paradise Animal Hospital in Paradise Valley, on the corner of 32nd Street and Bell Road. The closest subdivision was a mile or two south, towards Phoenix. There mighty have been a hundred homes scattered in the desert in the ten or so miles between the hospital and Cave Creek. Carefree, AZ was just beginning to build.

We left in 1970 when I went back to school to earn a PhD. There was one freeway, the Black Canyon Highway. I cannot count or keep track of the number of freeways in and around Phoenix now, too many. My old hospital is now a store that sells imported Mexican furniture and that corner is close to being in the middle of the greater Phoenix population. That formerly empty desert is now full of strip malls and homes, all the way to Cave Creek. My brother Joe and his wife even have a home just south of Cave Creek. Nothing is the same, too many people, too much building. All the places I remember fondly are gone and I am uncomfortable with the changes, progress? I’m not so certain.

All these changes force me to dwell on how things were, how they used to be. In the desert summer, one hundred plus degrees, before air conditioning, the temperature dropped ten or more degrees when the water truck went through our neighborhood dampening the dirt road to hold down the dust before all the Dads came home. When it was time for us kids to go to bed Mom gave us wet sheets and we rolled up in them on cots in the back yard. The stars and moon were so bright you could read by them. Dad would carry the three of us into the house before he went to bed.

Here is Charlize in my brother Joe’s backyard, Cave Creek, AZ.

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We stopped in Salinas and spent the afternoon and evening with a veterinary school classmate and his significant other. I’ve known him since 1956 and we’ve probably spent time together less than half a dozen times since we graduated in 1960 but conversation flowed easily enough. He lost his wife to cancer a few years ago so there was empathy for our shared experience, but we didn’t dwell on it.

Several of our veterinary school classmates were Korean War veterans, most of them married, some with children, living in a Veterans Village of Quonset huts and going to school on the GI bill. Sometimes the people, as represented by our government, do something right for everyone.

In those days not only the students were close, the wives formed an auxiliary group and made close friends amongst the other wives. Shared experiences in difficult financial times but with a better future in the offing.

Many of those wives remained close, kept in touch over the years. My experience is that the female of our species is much more efficient, determined and relentless in that pursuit. When we had our fiftieth year class reunion the widow of one of our classmates attended to be with old friends. Two lonely, still grieving people met again and made a connection. They found common interests and now spend some of the year at her home in Nebraska and some of it at his in Salinas California, interspersed with travel for pleasure and enlightenment. I would call them a cute couple but that’s too cloy. They are comfortable together, not afraid to talk and reminisce about their prior lives with their well-loved spouses. Their children and grandchildren are all happy that the couple found each other. They look good, they now look younger than me, and I wish them long and happy times together.

Wolfe and Steinbeck had it correct though, you can’t go back and resume a past life, a past home, a past friendship. As our lives progress we create new lives, new homes, new friendships and the people of our past cannot relate, nor can we relate to their changes.

The three of us talked of our families and listened politely, but with wandering interest, to the achievements of our offspring. After an uninterrupted six hours of sleep in Frog we continued our conversation over breakfast, but I was on a schedule for this part of my journey. My son and his family had set aside time for me in their hectic life and I had to get down the road. Goodbyes come easier for me now, not so important as they once were. Perhaps we will spend time together again before our time is up, perhaps not. If we do find our lives come together again we will pick up comfortably but will be careful to make our time together short enough so the desire to meet, and talk, and catch-up remains.

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