The First Of The Best

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know. The 80’s made us do it!!!

If you’re on Facebook, odds are you are my friend. I’ve made a lot of friends and acquaintances through the years and I can honestly say I have been very lucky to be able to call so many of them my friends. But the fact of the matter is, not unlike so many people my age, there are only so many of my friends now who I truly consider to be my BEST friends. Through the years, I would have to say…after a nationwide tally…I have 14 people I can consider to be my very best friends. They were there when I was a kid, growing up in my small town of McConnelsville, OH. They were there with me through my high school years in Zanesville and my college years. They were with me through my work years in Dayton & Cincinnati. And there is one now who I consider to be my best friend of my adult years. Obviously, not everyone can be your best friend. It takes a qualified person. Someone who gets you in all your glory. Someone who gets you when you’re down. Someone who gets you when you’re an ass. Obviously the one closest to you should be your spouse, and I’m happy to say that she IS one of my best friends. Granted, I drive her completely insane at times however it’s safe to say that if I need to talk about something, Stephanie is always there to listen. But other than her, who are the people who I trust completely? Well…

First and foremost, the reason I’m writing this post is not out of the goodness of my own heart unfortunately. The people who are on the sacred “Best Friends” list ARE my bestest buds however most of them already know this and don’t really need me to post about it. But with that being said, I was told last night that my very first best friend suffered a stroke this week and is in the hospital in Columbus. Mason was the kid next door. He was a year younger than me. But we both had a love for comic books, riding our bikes and exploring in the fields and woods behind my house out on old Airport Road in McConnelsville. We spent a lot of time together in my early years, playing dodgeball with his brothers, listening to records (his brother introduced me to George Carlin and the things you CAN’T say on television) and watching Saturday morning cartoons. His Mom was always giving me food and he had a dog named Major who had a doghouse outside in the backyard and he kind of scared me a little bit.

I remember all of these things in not-so-vivid color but somewhere in the recesses of my mind they all came bubbling up after I received word last night of his stroke. It’s funny how time goes by and you don’t really think about someone until they’re in the hospital. Actually, since the inception of Facebook, Mason and I have been in contact and we play “Hanging With Friends” together. I haven’t seen him in probably 20+ years but I know where he is and what he is up too. But tomorrow I am going to go visit him in the hospital. For the first time since that picture at the top of this post was taken, I will see him in what is probably his worst state and I can’t even begin to say how much that saddens me. Mason is my first best friend and there is nothing that can change that. He was there when we fell in the stream behind our house, got soaked and then both got in trouble for it. He was there when the killer cow charged us as we scampered up a tree in the pasture. He was there when I was too scared to ride the “Spin In A Circle And Get Sick” ride at the county fair. And he was the first to teach me several crude jokes that I can’t even get into here (having older brothers definitely had its advantages!).

He was there for all of it. And now I want to be there for him. I haven’t been around for many years but now I want to see him again. It’s been a long time coming.

As for all my other best friends? I’m going to make more of an effort to see them as much as I can. I plan on having lunch with my high school best friend tomorrow. I haven’t seen Chuck in quite some time (since our last reunion maybe? That’s crazy Chuck!). Next month I’m going to New York with my best friend from college. I see JT a couple times a year if I can and I talk to him whenever he can fit me into his endless stream of conference calls and answering emails. I like to hang with my buddy Newman whenever he can find the time. He lives here in Cincinnati but being a new daddy has its advantages and disadvantages. The “disadvantages” being he doesn’t have much time for himself! But I completely understand this and I know he and I will be hanging out again at some point (although with his wife expecting their first daughter here soon, it might be a little bit longer than I thought! LOL!). I see my “other” wife, Janet, at work quite a bit during the summer months. She has been through a lot in the past few years but she’s an amazing woman and a great friend and I owe her lunch…again…at some point here very soon. Shayne lives in my backyard (actually one street over) and is married to one of my best college friends who has a twin sister who is ALSO a great friend and then he has a brother who is ALSO a great friend but oddly enough, with my work schedule and all of our kids’ schedules, I haven’t seen ANY of them most of this winter. I imagine we’ll be firing up the grill here at some point and things will fall back into place like they always do when dudes get together to eat hamburgers and have a few drinks.

So that’s only 7…right? Well…I DO come from a large family and whenever I truly need a lifeline, I always have my Mom, my Dad, my brother and my 4 sisters to lean on whenever I need an ear to bend. I consider myself truly one of the luckiest guys in the world to have the family that I do and I know if there ever was a time that I needed ANYTHING, they would be there for me. Much the same as I want them to know I am here for them.

So there you go. ALL of my best friends. Some are farther away than others but I consider myself blessed to have them all in my life somehow. And now, I plan on seeing 2 of them tomorrow. One is in the hospital and I can’t wait to see him and I pray for a quick recovery. The other I haven’t seen in a while and THAT needs to change! Overall, this is a fine group of people and I love them all. And to Mason…I hope you have a speedy recovery and a long life. And if you need me? I’m always a phone call (or email) away. Oh…and you were right. Marvel comics ARE better than DC Comics. Just sayin’…

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