WOSTER: I can see 70, and it doesn't seem strange at allIn one of our upstairs bedrooms, a soft blanket thrown across the bedspread has images of a Teddy bear and the words, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
In one of our upstairs bedrooms, a soft blanket thrown across the bedspread has images of a Teddy bear and the words, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”
I do most of my personal writing in that room, so I see the blanket often. It doesn’t attract my attention most evenings when I’m up there working. Last weekend was different.
We had just returned from a cruise on Lake Oahe with the two Pierre couples who have been our close friends for nearly all of the last four decades. The outing marked the first time this year we were all together on a boat on the river, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. The lake lay flat, the sky was all but empty of clouds for most of the afternoon and the temperature of the water was more than tolerable.
We did nothing but the lazy things we usually do when we’re together. We idled upstream to the bay where the emergency spillway is located, just so we could see for ourselves the level of the water at the top of the big gates. We cruised on up to the river bend at Chantier Creek, mostly to see how much of Peoria Flats is showing with the water at a record level. We ate watermelon and blueberries and strawberries and did some catching up on each other’s lives.
One of the couples talked a bit about how nice it would be when they could return to their home. They’ve been out of it since the end of May, chased away by the record volume of Missouri River water rushing past the neighborhood where they live. They are living with other friends now, and they are grateful for the hospitality and shelter. Still, there’s no place like home, and the water continues to gush down the river against the emergency levees.
Our Saturday afternoon on the calm surface of the river just a few miles upstream from Oahe Dam was a nice break for them, but when the bow of the boat nosed into the buoy channel and approached the dock, they were back to real life. They’re handling it awfully well, day by day.
Nancy and I are the youngest of the three couples who shared the boat that day. We’re not young, just younger. Over the years we’ve watched our friends grow older, seeing how they’ve adjusted to the process of maturing and sometimes using their examples to give us an idea of how to respond to the passing years ourselves.
As I say, we’ve known these two couples since the early 1970s. That means we met about 10 years after Nancy and I left high school in Chamberlain. My class is a year away from a 50th reunion, and people are starting to make some plans for that event. Part of the discussion involves the number of classmates who won’t be around for that reunion. The CHS Class of 1962 had 63 or 64 members. Seven or eight of those classmates have passed since the evening we were together in a classroom above the floor of the Armory, donning caps and gowns and preparing to march across the stage and receive high school diplomas.
Thinking of those classmates exactly my age who are no longer around, it occurred to me how lucky I’ve been to have kept these Pierre friends for so many good years. We’ve gone through a lot — individually and together — over the decades. It’s amazing we’re still able to get together on a weekend afternoon, even if we do nothing more than share each other’s company and renew our sense of common values and experiences.
I thought of a couple of lines from a song — Simon and Garfunkel, I think. It goes “Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly. How terribly strange to be 70.”
Well, I’m not quite 70, and my friends and I have never shared a park bench. I can see 70 at the bend of the river, though. With these folks sharing the boat, it doesn’t seem strange at all.