Stopping in Mansfield at MickeyD’s, we brandished ice creams and seized a photo-op. All three of us. “You drive,” urged Carrie. “You know Columbus.” Obliging was easy. I well remembered downtown arteries of the town my dad called home. Just an hour to Broad Street.

Right on Fourth, left on Long, back down Third and swish: into the hotel’s lot. Even the Renaissance, our home for the night, had history. Across the street from Harriet’s old office (88 East Broad), it once —“in the day”—housed an upscale Sheraton.

“Your parents stayed here in ‘69” I announced to her apathy. (It didn’t slow me down). “They were there for Dickie’s orientation. It was the day I got my Mustang.” (Her silence ensued. Forty-three years after the fact it was now official: with my Dad gone, I was the only one who cared for that trivia).

Upstairs unpacking, a text came from Rachel. It was 4:19. “I hear you’re already in…” it read. Earth-shattering news it wasn’t, but clearly her reaching out. And why not? We were all there, or would be: voices that cared, placing friendship over politics and family over everything. Indeed, among the closest of friends, the feeling IS family.

“In another time,” I shrugged, ”I’d call my father. He’d be flying down here to join us for dinner.” (It was then I made a judgment call. If she wasn’t blown away by a decades-old memory of her parents, ‘twas no sense relating how back in the ‘50’s Marzetti’s Restaurant had a menu listing OSU’s football schedule five years in advance. No, I’d deduced, that dog wouldn’t hunt).

Thirty people filled the room Tuesday night– maybe more. And they came in two flavors. There were the yuppie-looking wonderkind politicos who, regardless of age, appeared 30. (None of them, I sensed, had ever perspired). And there were the rest of us, Clevelanders…voices that cared. From Mimi to Marshall, from Elda to F to Brother Craig, we mingled, munched, and oh so tacitly peered back at the tube.
It was an evening of pause, of anticipation, until…

Clock teasing ten, word diffused. It was going the other way. Networks had spoken; it was over. Done.

I couldn’t hear the hush, but I saw it. I couldn’t make out words; it didn’t matter.

He was standing at the door, my friend was. Gracefully, with a soft-spoken elegance he was accepting well-wishes, bidding friends adieu. Always the gentleman.

I know him well, this product of South Euclid. Our parallel existences have often travelled concentric circles, but in five-plus decades we’ve never failed to intersect: first through parents, then our own lives, then our children.

From triumph with Hollywood to frustration as White Sox…from the thrill as young marrieds to the challenge as young lawyers. Some things never change. My friend is always the gentleman.

There were the days in the 70’s… Thanksgiving mornings…no-equipment tackle… we played to 10 touchdowns…every year. I’d wear scarlet and gray; he’d don white. Boring white. The same blank jersey every year: souvenir perhaps, of his Brush career.
Yet we never teamed together. Ever. All those years. There’d be H, Alan, Dickie on my side. He had Cut, Doug, often Pear. And that white jersey. Always the white jersey.

(They were simpler times, those mornings, so black and white. When we’d won, he’d lost; when he’d won we’d lost. And it ended, always, with handshakes.  These are simple times, too, in a way. Maybe not).

We readied to leave  just past ten. Things hadn’t gone as we’d planned…as we’d hoped.  I saw my friend at that door and approached. Our eyes met, and I don’t know what he was thinking but I knew this wasn’t some stupid Boobus Bowl. This wasn’t about us, but our kids…

I guess he felt it too.  So it seems.  We didn’t speak at the door, nor shake hands. 

We hugged.

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