A kid called this morning and we talked for a good hour. I welcomed the pause in my efforts to get some work done, and it meant one more procrastinating recess in my writing project for the day. But, it became much more. The kid was Bill - lived across the street from me in the 1930s. He was the first new kid on the block since I had arrived.
I remember clearly the first time I saw him. He rode his bike up and down between Arnold and Hawthorne. As he passed our front porch, he looked over where I sat on the steps and stared but never said a word. His presence back and forth was intimidating. Why didn't he wave or speak? I thought.
Now, 72 years later, I conjure up a confrontation between Roman warriors in a coliseum, a kind of testing of wills between the established street captain and the challenger. (We turned out to be nearly the exact same age.) Then, I blinked first: "Would you like to see my rabbit?" I offered. I don't recall that Bill said anything but I remember leading him down back through my yard to my pet rabbit's wire cage which my dad had built.
Well, the ice was broken and we spent some time visiting our respective homes and families and became constant comrades. The bond lasted through our move to the next town and then the inevitable hiatuses of changing schools and work. We had little close contact over ensuing years when we both spent times away from home.
Years later, Bill called from his boat at Oak Bluffs Harbor and we rekindled our friendship, Bill began to fly a plane and once in a while would put down on the Vineyard for a visit. He left flying after a minor mishap from which he walked away.
We reminisced on the old neighborhood in the west end of New Bedford, but more likely about the village of Padanaram. Our families had deserted to the suburb for the Biblically named village in South Dartmouth. Our family moved again when the war began and my dad joined up. From high school on, Bill and I had few contacts with each other. So, today, after a stretch of 30 or 40 years, he called once more.
His voice sounded the same as ever although I sensed an implied apology for saying he had been reminded of me again after reading an obituary in the "New Bedford Standard Times" of a man named Hoxsie but who had no other shared relationship with me. We spent half the time this morning on obituaries of our old gang - Tom, Jimmy, Peter and most of the others. Children and grandchildren were scattered from here to Kansas and the west coast.
Then we exchanged accounts of our illnesses. Bill is waiting for a new hearing aid and I'm going to the eye doctor almost every two weeks to keep blindness from the door. "Growing old is not for sissies," my wife and I have repeated for at least a hundred times in the past six months. But I usually add that the alternative is not often considered.