Those present know how truly special it was. South Euclid in the 50’s and 60’s was a younger world, a simpler world, and one of blossoming life-long friendships.

They marched in: one, then two, then one again—even Pear was on time. Eight in all, convened to greet the ninth, (Brother Dick from Chicago). Hal’s comrades through life, time and circumstance had bonded us all, and I too scored an invite to Corky’s.

These are good men, guys known marginally when young, up close and personal through years. All of them. The sands of time—forty years and running—have changed little. Their meetings, like the one today, blend warmth and frolic like a third grade recess. They are, individually and en masse, a special blend.

Memories reach back. These were, don’t forget, my kid brother’s pals; I’d met them “backdoor”. Their contacts with him, to this day, remain vital and constant.

I don’t recall when I first met Jeff, or Dickie, for that matter. The former coached Jamie in softball and the latter was an usher in my wedding. (You can look it up). Typically though, the common denominator, even more than my brother, was a ball field. Mandel and Ross were White Sox. (Indeed, they were part of the Jewish cabal overwhelming that squad in the 60’s. How else do you explain—in a suburb more Christian than not—one team carrying 2 Bogarts, 2 Mandels, 2 Fentons, a Ross, a Fischer and a Lery?).

It wasn’t always a diamond. First recall of Cutler was football. Pear too, for that matter. And don’t get me started on Herzog…As if November of ’69 wasn’t bad enough! Days after Ohio State’s upset up north, (our first loss in two years), with heads dragging we came home for the holiday. Thanksgiving football (we knew), our morning respite, would ease the pain. Someone, however, forgot to tell Alan. Someone, more importantly, forgot to tell his girlfriend. (Or should I say EX-girlfriend?) She dumped him, you see, Erev Boobus Bowl, and our teammate, well…he stunk up the house.

I looked at these guys, just this morning, and marveled. (Arriving third, I’d sat near the end: respectful recognition of my spot on the food chain). Conversations—never less than three at a time—were sprite, and my mind soared back, ‘cross the canvas of our past. Yes, I’ll always hold dear those days on the diamond and sure, I’ll cherish forever the bumps on the gridiron. These guys, though…these fellows mean so much more.

They weren’t only my brother’s friends; I’ve known better for years. Each—some sooner, some later— had over time friended me. (And No, I’m not speaking of Facebook). Each, in his way, triggered images… memories deeper than ballgames….

From the powder blue Superman T-shirt (with my name on the back—no small feat in the day), a graduation gift from the astronaut… to the one-day job at Revco’s warehouse Steve’s father gave me (funding my prom)….

From the year I lived with Dick in Columbus— (remind me to tell you about winter quarter Black English with Professor Hortense Thornton)…to the intervention they had for me at Mandel’s house. (Remind me to share that too, and how it ended). And there was more.

I studied the table.

There was a constant, a thread through them all, an asset they still shared.  These men, to a man, held a moral compass. Good people, steady people, they were “keepers”. From long-term marriages through long-term employments, these men were rocks.

Not all memories, of course, are visual. Some, rather, dwell in the heart. My heart. Like the way Hal’s phone rang constantly when his news first hit, and how in the community of care for my brother, these men stood tallest. Stalwart. Always.

I drove back with Baskin today, down Chagrin. I mentioned Jeff, and how I really didn’t know him growing up, but that he’s truly an honorable man. That they all were—all the guys. My friend concurred.

Dick got out, evaporating into his mother’s home. My thoughts pervaded, wistfully…

Sixteen months—two school years—separated The Boys. Hal used to tease me how I’d had the big Bar Mitzvah, but all he got was Harry Kliot spinning records.  He was right.

That’s all though—that’s all he missed. Both of us, you see, were blessed with friends for a lifetime: core friends…gifts. Mine, (so many now buddies with H), got out in ’67, the Summer Of Love. Hal’s, they graduated later.  

They were, those men there at breakfast, truly the Class of ’69.

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