All of us have family, friends, and acquaintances that we hold dear. Some may have more than others – I am fortunate to have quite a few. But some loved ones just stick in our hearts a little differently than others.
This weekend, I was blessed to see many friends when I traveled to St. Louis to attend a baby shower for a couple I’ve known since I was a freshman in college. There are a number of people at this party that I was great friends with in college, some of which I have remained friends with to this day. But it did my heart the most good to see James.
I met James when he was a freshman at University of Missouri-Rolla and I was a sophomore. He was a pledge at Beta Sigma Psi fraternity and I was a pledge at Kappa Delta. I truthfully don’t remember the day I met him – maybe he does, and if so I’d love for him to share that memory with me sometime over a cocktail. (Hear that buddy? You need to have another cocktail with me!)
Over our college years, James and I spent a lot of time together. I became friends with him and many of his fraternity brothers. I dated one of his fraternity brothers, Matt, for 3 years during and after college. James was an electrical engineering major who took a couple of classes taught by my dad, a lecturer at UMR, so over time he started to feel a little like family. James started dating one of my dearest sorority sisters, Kate, during college. We enjoyed St. Pat’s, Greek Week, Homecoming (1996, yeah baby!), miscellaneous Tuesday nights at the Beta Sig bar, evenings at the Grotto, and trips to see our other friends Zeph and Ang in Chicago during the time that I was dating Matt.
Eventually, Matt and I broke up, and I didn’t see as much of James, but we remained friends. James married Kate, and they have four gorgeous sons now. I moved to Kansas City and got busy with career and life. It would have been easy for this friendship to completely fade away into the sunset. But it didn’t.
When my dad died in 2010, nine months after my husband died, James came to pay respects. We talked about everything, and nothing, and my dad of course. Seeing him gave me an anchor for a little while during a really crappy time and allowed me to remember to take care of myself and understand that it was OK to do so. I may forget a lot of things, but I can’t imagine that I’ll ever forget that James was there when my dad died.
This weekend was a treat because we got to see each other at such a happy time. If Kate hadn’t been so amused by all the other guests in attendance, she probably would have wanted to strangle both James and I for monopolizing each other most of the party. We talked about work, family, life, Rolla, Interfraternity Council, St. Pat’s, and serving as advisors to our chapters in Rolla. We talked about my dad, and we talked about a plethora of people that we know in common. He waxed poetic about leading cub scouts for his older sons, and said more than once that his home life is crazy but happy due to his fabulous wife. He is besotted with his wife and sons, excited about a job he took recently, and always happy to see others succeed and enjoy life.
Every time I see James, I have an indescribably good feeling. It is the pure, happy love of being with a true friend. A friend who has always greeted me with a smile (and often with a beer, at least in college) and a helping hand. And someone who at some of my lowest times has reminded me a little bit of who I am and where I came from.
Thanks, James. For everything.