Columns

2008.02.20 Not much has changed

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

We traveled to East Lansing Saturday to visit some old friends. We, of course, is just Colleen and me, which still seems a little strange.

It was especially odd for this trip because Jim and Nancy have four children and those kids have had some good times with our three.

But that was so many years ago. We haven’t gotten together for a visit since the oldest of the kids were in elementary school. Milwaukee just hasn’t been on our meager travel agenda for a long time, and as is the case with most of the world, Morenci is rarely a vacation destination.

We met Saturday at Michigan State University, where we all went to college, but we can’t really be described as college friends. Colleen was still in high school when Jim, Nancy and I were at MSU. And besides, the three of us rarely saw one another at college. We were only summer friends.

Nancy’s father, a pastor, had connections to the Methodist summer colony of Bay View, on the north edge of Petoskey. I think the family owned one of those great old cottages in Bay View.

Nancy worked her college summers at an old hotel there, the Terrace Inn. I served as the dishwasher and general goof-off at the Terrace Inn for two college summers.

Jim was in Bay View, too. He and Nancy were high school sweethearts from Marquette and even got to spend their summers together. Jim had a summer job with the post office and it seems as though he did some work at the hotel on occasion. Maybe he filled in sometimes for old Earl, the night watchman.

There are a lot of questions to ask about those years to fill in the historical record, but we didn’t review this portion of our past. Colleen wasn’t part of it anyway. We pretty much stuck with the past 15 or so years since we last got together.

Jobs, what the kids are up to, how we failed our kids, ideas for the future, etc.—nearly six hours straight of catching up.

Jim and Nancy were on campus to visit their daughter and deliver her boyfriend for a weekend visit. The kids did the obligatory visiting with the old folks, but I could tell that was going to get old really fast.

They’d probably heard enough from the  graduates of 35 years ago saying things like, “But wasn’t there a building over there that’s no longer standing?” and “Did you ever have any classes in that hall over there?” and “Have you had a chance to view the world’s largest hair ball ever taken from the stomach of a cow?”

So the youngsters ditched us and we sat down to talk for the remaining five hours. It was rapid and non-stop, with constant derailments into related topics. Sometimes we came back to the original conversation; more likely it was left hanging as we rushed on to something else. There was a lot of ground to cover.

Jim and Nancy had a better understanding of what our kids have been doing—their lives are somewhat public via this newspaper—but we needed to hear a lot of stories about their clan.

They have four remarkable kids who haven’t always had smooth sailing in their young lives. John was of the most interest to me because we have some similar experiences.

He bicycled down to New Orleans and bummed around for a while. Currently he’s in Syria or Egypt or somewhere. Jim and Nancy haven’t heard from him in a few days and they’re a little concerned.

Jon was traveling around Europe, but then Jim made the remark one day that he and Nancy had never made it to Morocco back when they traveled Europe. The next time they heard from Jon—or maybe heard about him from another sibling—he was in Casablanca or somewhere. He rented a bicycle and rode out into the desert for a day, and now he’s off on another adventure—somewhere.

It made me think back to my traveling days and how seldom I updated my parents about my whereabouts.

Our conversation Saturday ranged from the mundane to Jim’s mention that he still questions the existence of God despite his active membership in a church. We were far from finished, but all too soon we ran out of time.

Aside from gray hair, everything seemed the same. The 15-year absence didn’t really mean a thing, and that was all very comforting.

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