Friends and Acquaintances…

Well, another day, another @#&* airplane… sigh… Actually this will be a trains (from Yokosuka to Narita), planes (Narita to Dallas) and automobiles day (Dallas to home)…

It’s been a weird month as far as running into old friends and acquaintances in strange places…

Although I grew up in ARKLATEX area, I left there after HS and pretty much have not been back other than the occasional visit. I’ve stayed in touch with a few folks, but by and large lost touch with most of my classmates.

After a career in the military and then working for them after retirement, along with the travel in conjunction with the job, strange meetings tend to happen.

Four of us went to the same training school in the early 70’s and served together off and on through the early 90’s. We get together every couple of years, usually through all of us being in the same place by accident. Earlier this month, I got a cryptic email giving a time and restaurant where we were going to dinner (in San Diego). We met up and caught up on what was going on with each other; and it was like all of our get togethers- like the last dinner had been last week rather than two years earlier!

Three weeks ago I walked into a meeting in South Florida and the guy across the table was a guy I had gone to boot camp with in 1971! He had done a career in the military, gone off and done other things, and moved home finding a job as the facilities manager for the Air Station. He loved it, and was able to take care of both his parents and his wife’s parents as they aged. He has spent the last year or so reconnecting with his and his wife’s old classmates and was amazed to find they were basically welcomed back with open arms.

Flying out here on Sunday was one of those strange combinations- I walked up front to see who was driving the bus, and two of the three pilots were friends I had flown with in the Navy in the 1970s. While we were standing there talking, the check pilot showed up; and he was also a pilot I had flown with in the 70’s whom I had not seen in 21 years! I did end up getting a GOOD seat for the flight out, and spent most of the flight talking to one or the other of the pilots on their breaks.

Sadly, I found out yet another former pilot, who had gone to the airlines, and had taken mandatory retirement two years ago had committed suicide two months after retirement at his beach house in Hawaii. He had never made any real effort to have a life or hobbies outside work, and I personally think that came back to haunt him…

All the conversations were about what we were going to do when we retired, and when I brought up the 40th HS reunion, it elicited very similar comments, since all of us are either doing one this year or next year. We also commiserated about the loss of friends and loss of contact with folks we grew up with. Two of the three did say they are planning to relocate, if not back where they grew up, to somewhere close.

The other commonality was how many times we seemed to run across each other, and other friends and acquaintances in unusual places or at weird times (Hawk was flying missions in Gulf and his briefer at King Khalid was his former plane captain from 15 years earlier). Another point was how much our outlooks differed from those who had stayed around their hometowns their entire lives, and how both sides envied the other (we envy the stability, they envy the travel).

Yesterday I went to lunch with two friends in Japan, one a retired E9 I’ve known for 25 years and the other an active duty E9 who was one of my students in 1978. The retiree works for the Navy and lives in Tokyo with his Japanese wife, and basically said he cannot afford to come back to the States due to her family issues (Dad with heart problems, Mother with Alzheimer’s). He admitted he will probably die here, and never make it back. He regrets the loss of friends and family connections, but figures his family responsibilities are the overriding consideration.

The active duty E9 has been stationed in Japan for 8 years and put in his papers to retire. As soon as he did, his wife filed for a divorce in California, and he will lose 50% of his retirement to her. She has already left, and she has apparently poisoned the well with both of their kids who are back in the States in college as to who is at fault.

He decided he is going home, and will take over the family farm business and his take was if he NEVER sees the ocean again, that would be fine with him. He is extremely bitter about what has happened, and has no doubts that he will lose contact with his children, thanks to the ex-wife.

Having said that, he said he has managed to reconnect with a couple of friends and is actually looking forward to going home and starting over at age 59!

I think our generation is a ‘bridge’ generation, one that was fated to be the first mobile generation, not staying local after we graduated from school. We have had diverse careers, lived in many places including overseas, and travelled more than any previous generation and been exposed to many more cultures than either our parents OR our children.

We have seen the advent of electronic media, and gone from writing real letters, taking real pictures, and reading real books to sending email, pictures, and books on line. We have learned how to reach out through that media for those we have lost contact with and maintain contact with a variety of folks we have become friends with who are scattered literally world wide. We have learned how to navigate the Internet, the blogsphere, Facebook and are now reconnecting with our past, both figuratively and literally.

It will be interesting to see how all this works out…


Friends and Acquaintances… — 7 Comments

  1. I still exchange letters and Christmas cards with a friend from my AF training days at Keesler AFB in 1969. He and his wife stopped by once when he was trasferred to March AFB in CA. I haven’t laid eyes on him since.

    I’ve lost track on most of my old AF buds. Strangely, I reconnected with one last week. As I mentioned on my blog profile, I recently joined the American Legion. I went to my first Post meeting and there was a man whom I hadn’t seen for nearly 40 years and everything from that time came rushing back.

    I got invitations from the Legion and the VFW every year or so and never joined. My wife kept urging me to do so. Her Father was a member most of his life. Finally, I gave in and the next time I received a letter, I joined. Maybe, I’ll join the VFW as well? Who knows whom I’ll meet there?

  2. Jim, well written and well said. it is indeed strange at times how things are or how they turn out. You are well traveled and have a lot of knowledge, but you have not forgotten where you are from. look forward to seeing you soon as we catch up again, just a couple of country boys from Arkansas traveling the highways of memory. Should be fun- See ya soon, get some sleep–

  3. You are fortunate indeed to have such friends, and to run across them as often as you do.

    I left HS in Mass, moved out West to go to college. Joined the Army, did 20 & retired, someplace far away from any large military bases.

    I have not seen a school or military friend since I retired. Not that I don’t have friends, but not any “old” friends that I’ve run into.

    Again, you are indeed fortunate. I’m jealous.

    B Woodman

  4. What you said Jim about one group envying the other sure does ring true. I love to travel and see new places. But it’s always home that I pine for. Nice to hear that you found a few welcome faces on this last trip.

  5. Hi Jim, B&R on this little fly speck in the Atlantic, joined the USN at 17 and got transferred to NAF Naples at 21. Was immediately put on the COMAFSOUTH’s A/C Adm Cat Brown, 4 star, as second wrench because of previous experience w/ R2800’s. He had a Convair R4Y-4Z and I rode that plane to virtually every country in Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East and Northern Africa that had a US consulate, and even a few Commie ones also. After spending 20 doing that and seeing a thousand places that I thought I might like to live in, in the end it came back to the town of my roots! I have also run into guys from my own town in the damndest places. I was in VXE-6 and made the mistake of volunteering for the wintering over party down on the ice when the USN was still supporting the operations of the IGY scientists at McMurdo. So who climbs on the plane that delivered me to the ice but a kid that was two years ahead of me in HS!! Unbelievable! Been back here among my 365 years of ancestors ghosts for the last 35 and it do appear as this will be my Waterloo! Only when the time comes!! Absolutely great post and it just brought a flood of memories rushing in. Be safe and keep an eye on those OLD pilots! They have a tendency to take cat naps at times! Best Regards Everett.
    Had to use this sign on as Mr Google wouldn’t take my password that I’ve had for 4 years!!

  6. Mongo- Thanks!

    Crucis- Yep, you run into people in the strangest places…

    Jeff- Thanks, I’m gonna try… 🙂

    B- Just dumb luck 🙂 Sometimes it helps to be too dumb to get a real job!

    Top- it IS funny how that works out!

    Ev- Yep, strange is right! Glad I could help get the old memories flowing! 🙂