My phone rang in Great Neck last weekend.
“B, my mother died,” said the voice. The gentle giant, “Big Will,” en route from Florida… crying.

He wasn’t one of the Big Four nor did he really run with Arthur, Joel and that crew. But he was right there—one of our Sweet Sixteen— part of the package. Always.

A star athlete, Will was 6’5” back when 6’5” was still 6’5”. He was “Big Will,” one of us. Sure, he could letter in everything from Greenview through Brush; sure— the Indians would give him a signing bonus. We never let him forget, though: trophies came ONLY upon return to his roots, teaming with US on the sandlots. “God Damn Will!” we’d shout.

College done, though, like most of Our Gang, Will left town. A high school teacher, then principal, he carved his career elsewhere… returning only a handful of times over forty years. Like yesterday.

It was a graveside service, then back to the house. We shared, and before leaving…we smiled.

For nearly an hour Bob stood; Alan and I split the couch. It fit. Will, (perhaps due to his size), had often been targeted by our humor. Not yesterday.

Monday no one laughed at stranding him in New Mexico, no one mentioned hiding his shoes at the reunion; there was nothing of Will’s tendency to exaggerate. Indeed, not a word even, of his Dad wrestling alligators.

No, yesterday it wasn’t three jokers yet again reliving the past—it was more. In unison, in warmth, it was three friends answering the bell.

A bell that, quite clearly, tolls for all of us.

2 Responses to “GROWN UPS”

  1. Mark Ermine says:

    Beautiful words. Will, my condolences on your loss.

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