It’s funny, you know. You hit a “certain age” and you tend to find yourself thinking about the past more often. Perhaps it is out of a longing for youth or it could simply be a state of nostalgia that begins to permeate our aging souls. Whatever it is, we seem to view the past through both rose-colored glasses and, also, with a discerning, unapologetic eye.
As I saw my teens fade quickly behind me, I found myself serving in the army, a young soldier full of momentum and possibility. I was impressionable in a strange and hungry way. It wasn’t as if I was looking for direction. I was moving forward and that was my singular goal. The promise of a future undefined. Do we not all long for that feeling once more?
In the fall of 1984, I arrived at what (at the time) was billed as the largest military base in the free world: Fort Hood, Texas. It was the home of III Corps, 1st Cavalry Division, and many other respected units. I was introduced to what I expected to be my new “career” and all the folks who would lead me down that trying path.
One of those folks was a young man who became the only person in the world I’ve ever thought of as a “big brother.” Rob was not much older than me but he was married and lived off base in Killeen, the town that lay on one border of the huge garrison.
I could tell you dozens of stories about the times we had and the ways in which he shaped the man I grew into. Hell, he introduced me to things as varied as D&D, the Beatles, the particular amusement provided by cats, Pink Floyd, the Japanese Botanical Gardens, the simplicity of cooking and how to question the world around us.
Recently, I tried to explain to The Wife what Rob, as a friend and mentor, meant to me. I will sum it up the way I did for her…
Of all the people I’ve known over my life, of all the people I’ve met, all the friends I’ve ever had…he is the best, the most solid, stand-up, honorable of them all.
A little while back, after losing touch for many years, we reconnected, here in Texas. There are no words to explain what that re-connection meant to me. It was like a lost piece of my world was put back into place. He’s going to read this and tell me I’m full of shit. I played it pretty cool when we finally met back up in Denton that day. Yet, if I were to be honest, I’d admit I was damned close to tears after all those years — all those incredible, formative, special, inspiring years — came flooding back.
Yeah. I’m a softy. So sue me.
It’s just damned nice to have my “brother” back.