A friend once asked me to write about friends. “Friends?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “You know what I mean. FRIENDS.”
I knew what he meant and did what he asked. What he thought about it, he never has said ... nor have I asked. It’s the type of thing guys don’t discuss except under special circumstances.
A few years ago, at the very hour he was undergoing an operation that would either restore his life or kill him, I ran into a mutual friend.
We decided to have a couple of drinks. Actually, we had a lot of drinks. We talked about our buddy and called each other “Brother.” We also talked about matters we’d never discussed before and haven't talked about since.
This is a phenomenon women refer to as “a guy thing,” and that’s precisely what it is.
The operation renewed our friend’s life and, in the company of his wonderful wife, he has been enjoying every day of it to the absolute maximum.
He was the first one I called to tell about Bill Shipway.
For a long time, I’ve tried not to let anyone get too close to me. It’s purely a defense mechanism, and anyone who’s had experiences similar to a few I’ve never quite gotten over would understand why I’ve resorted to it.
Call it a cold, hard place I can retreat to if I must — a wall, or simply a door I can lock and hide behind.
It’s come in handy at times, but recent developments have shown me it hasn’t always worked. I now find that any number of people have managed to sneak up on me and burrow their way deeply and permanently into my heart.
That includes Bill, his wife Debbie and their sons Brian and Jeremy ... as well as a relatively new friend who has put up her own wall for reasons I can appreciate.
She recently left town to take a new job, and we are a lot alike in some ways. She’s been an incredible friend who thanks me for making her smile, and she has helped me to start looking out from behind my own wall. One of these days, I’ve told her, something is bound to happen that will free her to do the same.
Bill and I became friends under unusual circumstances: Debbie is one of my numerous ex-girlfriends. I was 26, and it ended the day she told me she was only 17.
Today, if I want to raise her hackles, I call her “Jailbait.”
Several years ago I walked into their restaurant — The Royal in Keyser, W.Va. — and Debbie and I recognized each other immediately.
“Goldy!” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m hungry,” I told her. “What are you doing here?”
“My husband and I own this place,” she said.
The Royal quickly became one of my favorite haunts. Before long, Bill and I were exchanging hugs and saying, “Love you, Brother.” Debbie has become my sister from another mister.
I’ve told both of them she married the right man, because Bill is one of the best people I’ve ever known — a Christian who truly is justified in calling himself that. The Lord Himself must have had a hand in putting the two of them together.
Each year, they put on a free Christmas dinner for special needs folks and their caregivers, presents included. Usually there are more than a hundred of them.
I help to serve, along with the waitresses, cooks and a few other volunteers. The waitresses call me “Mister Jim,” and I call them “Miss Barbara,” “Miss Brenda,” “Miss Patty,” “Miss Thelma,” “Miss Linda,” “Miss Stephanie” and so on. Debbie’s sister Wanda, one of the cooks, is either “Chef” or “Sis.”
Bill and Debbie have been longtime supporters of the charitable acts performed by Chapter 172, Vietnam Veterans of America, on behalf of veterans. The chapter has returned the favor on many occasions.
They do other things for the community, not just in gratitude to the people who contribute to their livelihood, but because of the type of folks they are.
Like me, many people go to The Royal not as customers, but as friends ... even family.
Bill put up a tremendous fight for several years. To see him, you knew something was terribly wrong. To talk to him, you would never realize anything had changed. Still, I could tell he was growing tired ... something I’ve had to watch before.
Last Sunday, I went to visit him and his family. He slept the whole time, but I am certain he knew I was there. My last words to him were these:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
I also sat and talked for a while with the man who was going to perform the service. He told me his favorite passage in the Scriptures was 1 Corinthians 13:13 — “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I held out my hand to shake his and said, “That’s my favorite, too.”
Debbie called me about two hours later to tell me that Bill’s pain had gone away, never to return.
As I was leaving him that day, I didn’t feel that I was about to lose a friend. Instead, I was thankful for Bill and my other friends who were gathered there, and for a new friend I had just met in a most unexpected place.
I’ve lost nothing and no one. I never say good-bye to those I care for. That’s too final, and I don’t believe in final. Bill will be one of my most treasured buddies for all of eternity.
As St. Paul also said in the same letter to the Corinthians, “Love never ends.”
My other friend, who lived instead of dying on the operating table, likes to say he has more friends than anybody he knows.
I agree with him, but tell him the only reason he has more than I do is because he travels around the country and meets more people. He doesn’t argue with that.
I told him the other night that if the success of a person’s life can be measured by the number of people he loves, and who love him, then he and I must be right up near the top.
“That’s exactly right,” he said, “Brother.”
A friend once asked me to write about friends. “Friends?” I asked.
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- He was here long before Duck Dynasty
He means well, and this time they spared his life
Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.
They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves
So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.
Better read that french fry before you eat it
People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.
The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you
So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?
There are some debts you can never repay
Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.
It could have saved the county a lot of money
Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
• If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
• If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.
These two were part of the Not Top Ten
Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”
Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.
Coming soon to a highway near you?
People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”
In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.
This was a skill that proved very useful
The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.
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