“Maybe now, you recognize me somehow,
But the world is such, a different place today.
Maybe nothing’s changed, we’ll see,
Maybe we’ll take the opportunity,
To just, agree that life gets in the way.”
Those are the lyrics that my friend Keith wrote for a song that was musically inspired by my daughter’s toy. Take 2 minutes and listen to the song, it’s the most beautiful kind of art. Simple but from the heart, and kinda catchy. Keith texted me last night, after reading my story on connectedness, reminding me of that song he wrote 2 years ago, and reminding me of that toy, which I had completely forgotten about. He said the lyrics to the song are inspired by the same feelings of connection as were in my story.
One more chance to listen to the song.
It’s strange trying to remember the past and it’s even hard to consider them memories anymore. It’s like I’m watching this movie that doesn’t feel a part of me in any way, and I’m not even really sure that it happened. I can’t see the whole movie, I’m just given tiny scenes to reflect on. And this is supposed to represent a HUGE chunk of my life… broken up scenes that feel like someone else’s.
Keith and I first met almost 33 years ago and he’s my oldest and closest friend. There is some debate about whether we met in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade but Keith was on the smart kid train so it wasn’t until 4th or 5th grade that we really started getting to know each other. I sat at the cool kid table and Keith was with the smart kids, but as soon as we realized how funny he was, we quickly made room for him. That sounds fucking awful, but hey, I was 10. We shared basketball and… I don’t know, playground… stuff? What do kids do in 5th grade? That’s what we did.
It was hard when the news of his move to Tennessee came right before the end of our 6th grade year at Swartz Creek (or Crik, depending on the redness of your neck) His parents had the whole gang over to their house for a going away party and we played football and had cake. It was awesome and sad all at the same time and to make it worse, Verle Gilbert dominated the football game. He had incredibly long arms and was faster than everyone. I’d go on to play basketball with Verle until I transferred schools my freshman year.
Keith left, and life went on, like the unstoppable force that it is.
My connection to him was solidified in my brain though, and when I saw him again freshman year of college, it just worked, it felt like he’d never left. Part of it is because that’s just the type of person Keith is, but there’s something else. When I left Swartz Creek, I was a 14 year old kid, and I didn’t leave my school, and more importantly friends, on good terms. I was embarrassed and kind of sad to leave (even though I knew it was the right decision), so I kept it to myself, and dodged questions about it. Even my best friend who lived 4 houses away had to find out through the rumor mill. In my brain, Keith, who I didn’t have a chance to reject, was a connection to those roots.
It’s my second week on campus at Michigan State and one of my friends is having a party, I was surprised to run into a few acquaintances from Swartz Creek.
“Guess what? Keith Pople is here.”
“Here? As in, at MSU?”
“Well yeah. But also, here, at this party.”
We caught up to each other and shared a big hug, bro love style. Turns out, his family had moved back from Tennessee in our sophomore year of high school and he graduated from Brighton High. We had spent our high school years an hour apart and didn’t even know it. This was way before keeping in touch on the internet was even a twinkle in Zuck’s eye.
No time for that though, Keith spent night after night hanging out in our dorm, having fun, listening to and playing music, and obsessively watching MSU basketball. And when, at the end of that year, we decided as a group to rock one more year in the dorms, he moved in 2 rooms away from us. Before bed most nights I would saunter over to his room and we would just listen to music. I remember him playing the Jimi Hendrix Blues album and how much we loved that damn thing. Our big party trick was that we could do the lift from Dirty Dancing.
We kept in close touch after college. We were in each other’s weddings, he the best man in mine, where he wrote an amazing poem about our journey together and it brought the house down. We watch MSU basketball games together. Well, not together, but we text each other throughout the entire game. If we’re both watching it on the dvr, one of us will pause and wait for the other to catch up. He’s the only person outside of my wife and kids that I talk to every day.
Now, as the age 40 bears down us both, I’ve got 2 kids and he’s got 1. I can’t help but wonder, if I’m lucky enough to be here 30 years from now, how will these memories of today look and feel? Will I remember the way his little girl smelled when I held her in the hospital? Will I remember the smile on my daughter’s face as she was holding her? Will it be disconnected scenes of the movie, or will I have the whole damn thing? Don’t say it, I already know the answer.
So here I sit. More than half of my life gone. Trying to remember moments with a friend I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like to, listening to him strum a guitar on my phone and talk about the pace at which life moves. Life is good and this song reminds me of our friendship. Look, I know and am comfortable saying that he is probably singing about a general feeling of losing touch. That he isn’t singing specifically about me,
But it makes me feel better to pretend that he is.