Cumberland Times-News

June 30, 2012

They’re getting just what they deserve

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Two friends of mine will have become married by the time you read this.

I’ve known him for several years, and her for just a brief time. He’s about my age, and she’s a bit younger — but not enough to matter.

There are situations in which he and I can look at each other, and neither has to say a word ... which in most cases is just as well. It usually takes a while for two guys to get to that point, but with us it happened rather quickly.

We are e-mail pen pals, and what he sends me usually takes one of four forms: hilarious, patriotic, religious or things I must leave to your imagination.

She and I just talk, and I have become thoroughly comfortable in her company.

I tell her she picked a good one, and she agrees with me — just as he agrees when I tell him he made the right choice.

Harry (which is not his real name) is a bartender at what a few folks call “The Lost Souls Tavern,” because that’s what it is. There’s no explaining this to someone who doesn’t already understand.

Even if you go there, you still might not have found it ... and it may be that you never will. It’s more than just a place, but not everyone realizes that (and it occasionally shows in their behavior).

I’m usually one of the first to show up when it opens, and I always ask Harry — who makes truly amazing margaritas — if Sally (another made-up name) will be joining us.

If she is, I sit at the next-to-last stool from the end of the bar. The end seat is hers, which most of the regular patrons know by now.

Some time ago, Harry asked me what I was doing on June 30. I told him I had no idea.

He said he was getting married that day and wanted me to be there. I shook his hand, hugged him, patted him on the back and said they’d have a hell of a time keeping me away.

That’s not the same reaction I would have for everyone. To a person who hasn’t seen as much of the elephant as Harry has, I might say something different ... just because I could.

A number of years ago, when my parents and I went to my girl cousin’s wedding in Johnstown, I hastened to the cellar of my aunt’s house to join the groom and his buddies. They were deriving comfort and fortitude from a substantial trove of beer, and I figured they might need some help in dealing with it.

As I popped a top, I told my future cousin-in-law, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say today can and probably will be used against you ... .”

That’s as far as I got before my mother, my aunt, my girl cousin and every other woman in the house started screaming at me from the top of the stairs.

What fun, but I wouldn’t do that to just anyone. (They’re still married, by the way.)

I asked Harry and Sally why two people at their level of maturity would contemplate such an act. Most folks probably would just cohabitate.

He said, “I’ve dated other people. None of them was Sally.”

She said, “I’ve dated other people. None of them was Harry.”

What more do you need to know?

A mutual friend who belongs to our age group has also become smitten in recent weeks. We’ll call him Sam.

This has happened to him before, just as it has to me. One of Sam’s more recent girlfriends was a particularly intriguing sort who said she was giving some thought to which of her friends she’d like to fix me up with.

“For what we are about to receive,” I immediately thought, “may we be truly thankful.” That’s what the lads in the Royal Navy used to say as they were about to sail into battle.

Shortly after that, she disappeared from Sam’s life and mine, but that’s another story.

Harry said that this time it was serious with our buddy Sam: “It’s somebody he almost married before he went to Vietnam.”

I told Sam I hoped he realized how fortunate he is. Not many people get a second chance. He said he knew, and didn’t intend to let this one go to waste.

Then I reverted to form and told Sam that this business with him and Harry had me a bit worried. Grizzled, hard-bitten old bachelors suddenly falling from grace, and all that. One worries that such things can can be contagious.

“Uh-huh,” he replied, “I thought there for a while it might be happening to you!”

Yeah, but it didn’t turn out that way ... which probably was a good thing. (Goldy’s Rule 2 states: What appears to be a source of disappointment may actually be a narrow escape, particularly where romance is concerned.)

Sally wanted to know if I’d ever been married, and I said I was, back in what almost seems like another life, nearly 40 years ago.

She asked what it would take for me to try it again ... not a question you ask just anyone, but we’re friends — and she knows how I feel about her and Harry.

For one thing, I told her, there’s already been enough drama in my life. She’d have to be someone who wouldn’t drag me into even more of it.

I would have to like her as a person and be physically attracted to her, she’d need to have a sense of humor that matches mine and be good company, and ... and ... the bottom line is, I just don’t know.

I’ve had all of those things, more than once, even in the same package — but it’s never been enough. I know who she is not.

As for who she is ... or if she actually does exist ... or if I even care at this point?

Forrest Gump’s mama told him that, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” and that’s true.

My particular box of chocolates has produced an amazing variety of surprises. As to what it might still contain, that’s covered by Goldy’s Rule 85: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Proverbs 3:5)

The latest surprise I have found among my chocolates is that some folks I hold in great affection are as happy as anyone has a right to be, and they deserve it.

This makes me happy, and that’s all I need for right now.