A strong friendship doesn't need daily conversation or being together. As long as the relationship lives in the heart, true friends never part.
This week, I take you back to the column from two weeks ago regarding the reunion of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire resident assistants along with their boss, the head resident. It has come and gone. If I had to sum up the weekend in one word, perhaps the best word would simply be "wonderful."
Let me explain.
The first part of the two-day event began on Saturday, June 23, on a golf course for those wishing to take part. I was not in that group. Then, at 5 that evening, at the Wauwatosa home of one of the RAs and his wife, we all gathered for grilling and frivolity.
I suspect for most of us who hadn't seen each other for 38 years, our immediate thought driving up to their home was "Will I even recognize these guys?" As I pulled up in front of the house, another car did so, too. When the driver stepped out of his car, try like heck but I couldn't identify him. And so the night began.
One by one, the RAs (and some wives) arrived. Some I recognized, and some I didn't. The reverse was true as well for those identifying me. When the boss arrived, he brought visual aids that would distract all of us at some point throughout the weekend.
The most popular item was his photo album. One person after another found time to flip through the photos in their plastic transparent homes. The memories returned quicker than one could blink. It was a source of conversation, and laughs, for all. There were a few photos of me in my suit as I was hosting the game show my boss and I had created. I really have no visual memories of that ever happening, so it was more than enjoyable to revisit that period of my college existence.
As more people entered the backyard, various camps of people formed.
I closed my eyes at random moments and listened to just the voices. Those hadn't changed from 1980. At idle times, I tried to peel away the years on each face to uncover the 20-year-old mugs I remembered from my time in Eau Claire. I learned one of us had been a police officer and was already six years retired. Another had experienced a quadruple bypass. Yet another lost his wife to a quick battle with cancer in the last couple of years.
Each person had his own journey to share. Life had happened to us all, but how wonderful it was we were all able, and willing, to return on that night to reconnect with great friends from our past.
"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart."
It was a wonderful night that led into an equally wonderful Sunday. We met at a Park 'N' Ride and caravanned to Miller Park Stadium to tailgate a couple hours before moving inside to watch the Brewers take on the Cardinals. There was no shortage of food. People brought multiple dishes to share.
The weather, for a second day in a row, was beyond improvement. Mother Nature must've been an Eau Claire grad herself! I got to know some of the wives better on this day; they were an added treat to the reunion.
As we were preparing to wrap up the food items and all the setup that went with tailgating, we had a brief "meeting" where some typical humor from the boss occurred. That was met with typical humor from his once-upon-a-time staff. With everything back in people's cars, we were off to the stadium.
It was a bobblehead game, so that was a bonus to the day. We found our seats and got ourselves situated in what turned out to be a shaded section. As the game grew ugly for the Brewers, people moved from seat to seat to touch base with one another as our time was growing short.
The Brewers lost, but we didn't. We had more time to touch base with one another. At game's end, we returned to our cars. Most said goodbye, but a few of us made one final stop at a local bar to have that last opportunity to bond in a special room reserved for us. It was great.
And so ended the weekend that we began anticipating this past winter. None of it disappointed. We were all exhausted by Sunday night, but it was a small price to pay. It was two days of nothing but happiness and fun.
Speaking for myself, I hope it's just the beginning to more. To do this again would be to give those who couldn't attend another opportunity.
Eleanor Roosevelt's words best sum up the weekend. "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart."
Our hearts are full of footprints.