Tomorrow, there’s this old guy who is going to have a birthday.
i know because he’s six months and one day younger than me. Old. i mean old.
We have been been more than friends for fifty-six years. In some ways, this is rather odd. In other ways, such a friendship is entirely predictable.
i, as you should know, am from a small town called Lebanon in Middle Tennessee. My parents and their families didn’t have a lot of money, but always got along okay. In fact they were very secure in their life. Out of Castle Heights Military Academy, i was lucky enough to get a Navy scholarship to Vanderbilt. That’s where i met this old guy.
He was from a big city. i mean, it was a big, big city. New York. 95th and Park Avenue. His father was a successful and very good doctor. His mother was a banjo playing starlet. They had three boys. This old guy was in the middle. He started at Vanderbilt the same time i did.
Then we had to go through Kappa Sigma pledge period together. Whatever one might think of the Greek fraternity and sorority system, one must accept a pledge period can bind a bunch of young men or young women together for life, just like it did for twenty-four of us. Then there was this Navy thing. The old guy enrolled in NROTC because he was interested in the Navy, or rather was or became a scholar about all kinds of ships. He was intrigued with them. Still is. For some strange reason, we got hooked up as a pair making a model of a 5″ 38 twin gun mount, the kind that was on destroyers. i don’t think it was really very good, but it got us by.
Somewhere along this time, some connections came out. The old guy’s parents were originally from Rockwood, Tennessee. My family spent a number of weekends in Rockwood in this wandering Victorian home up on the hill. It belonged to my uncle’s mother. My uncle’s father, the Presbyterian minister, had passed away before our family rendezvous’ in Rockwood began. i never met any of the old man’s family on these trips.
But the connections just kept on coming. Sports. Both the old man and i loved watching sports of any kind. Music. We both loved music, particularly bluegrass. White socks. Yes, white socks. That’s what these two, one from the country, one from the big city wore proudly when they matriculated only to find out white socks were definitely not cool.
Parents. We didn’t know this for a long, long time, but sometime in the late 40’s, early 50’s, the old man’s father was doing some doctoring stuff in Nashville and decided to go to Rockwood before heading for NYC. His car broke down in the early evening right outside Lebanon, Tennessee. So the good doctor went to the only open auto shop, which was where my father was closing up. My father fixed the doctor’s car in two or three hours. The two talked a lot. When the doctor paid the bill and left, he gave my father a ten dollar tip, in silver dollars. i have them now. At the time, no one knew the old man and i would end up spending a lot of time together.
We probably should have lost track of each other. After all, he was in Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, D.C., and New Jersey (ugh). i was all over the map and all over the ocean. Then we ended up out here on the left coast. We reconnected. We still liked the same things. Our wives got along famously. It was karma.
i could go on about the old man. He’s pretty special. He’s done some amazing things in his life, but remains low key. His sense of humor is just about perfect.
Oh yeh, i should mention the old man is Alan Hicks. He’ll be seventy-four tomorrow.
He ain’t too bad. In fact, he’s one of my best all time friends forever.
And i was just kidding about the old man stuff.
Happy Birthday, Alan…and thanks for being my brother.
Oh yeh, his brother Jim ain’t bad either except for the hummingbird thing.