0

JAMES BEHRENS: It's never too late to rekindle old friendships

A letter arrived recently in the mail. I looked at the return name and address and immediately recognized the sender. His name is Tim and he now lives in Arizona.

I had not seen him or heard from him in more than 40 years. He lived up the street from me in the town where we grew up. His older brother John was the piano player in our fledgling rock 'n'roll band.

They lost their dad in 1962. I was in the eighth grade. Their dad died during heart surgery in a New York hospital. It was the early days of a surgery that is a common procedure these days. The odds were not good back then.

He left seven kids and a wife. It was the first death of a classmate's parent that I experienced. We all went to the funeral at our parish church.

John and Tim's mom got a job as an executive secretary with U.S. Plywood, where her husband had worked.

Tim wanted to touch base after all these years. I hear from John every Christmas. He lives in Pennsylvania and his health is not good these days. He has been out of work for a long time and is on dialysis three days a week.

We made good music back then. I can still see him at the piano in their basement, playing Chuck Berry songs, his left leg sliding along the floor to the beat, his right leg hitting the floor pedals.

Tim was quiet and always friendly. I remember how tall he was for his age, tall and lanky. He hung upstairs when we would go to the house for hours of practice.

There were two other brothers, who are now deceased -- Barney and Joey. They were little kids when I knew them, as were the sisters -- Mary, Jean and Eileen. Their mom passed on last year.

Their mom had a hard time raising them. To this day, I do not know how she managed to hold onto their house. It was a large Dutch colonial home, an easy walk from where we lived.

I can see the rooms now. The kitchen was painted yellow and there was an island in the middle. Tim's mom liked plants; there were plants all through the house. Most were on a generous-sized porch that wound around the side of the house.

We spent a lot of time in their TV room, which was off the kitchen. There were plants in there, too. John's room was on the third floor.

He liked to dismantle and put back together car engines, which was easier to do those days. He had drawings of cars all over the room, and auto magazines. Tim would venture up every now and then, but usually to go to his bedroom, which was next to John's.

I had heard that after some years, their mom sealed off the third floor to save on heat. Winters were cold up North and heating fuel -- it was oil -- was very expensive.

Tim is a nurse now, has been for 20 years. He is married but there was no mention of children. He and his wife have three dogs. They live on Serenity Lane -- and I hope all the meanings of that word live with them.

The years go by. It probably did not take Tim too long to sit down and write the letter. But he has opened several worlds to me -- a world that I remember, from so many years ago, and a world as it spins these days, with a man with whom I will resume a friendship that seemed to stop when the music stopped.

It is never too late to resume a sleeping friendship. Tim's letter really moved me -- something so simple, yet carrying such momentous gifts.

His letter opened a door from my past, and invited me in. I will go, and see where it leads. Only good can come from it. Letters from old friends do that -- they rob time of its sting.

They make the present as fresh and as inviting as it was, years ago, before I knew how easily people and things pass.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.