Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chillin' in the HIlls

Lago Vista, TX (August 5, 2006) – Nine of the last seventeen weeks, I’ve been on the road. Only once has a member of my family elected to join me. I miss them. This weekend trip is purely for pleasure, unlike those of the last three months. I’ve come to the Texas hill country to see my oldest friend and his family. I’ve only been here a few hours, but we’ve already settled in to familiar stories, the kind that bore our children into submission.
My friend Mark is the fifth of six children, and four of his siblings are here. The house we’re in, in fact, belongs to his sister-in-law’s family. The fact that I’m welcome here says something about the depth of our friendship. One of his sisters was explaining to the younger generation here that “Darrell is like our fifth brother. He’s always been around.” I feel comfortable and safe here, dare I say loved? I appreciate so much being welcome in their family gatherings.
Mark and I met because our mothers were high school friends. I have known him for so long that I don’t recall a time when I didn’t know him. Next month, it will be forty years since we started first grade together at a little Catholic school in Bossier City. Friendships that enduring are rare and priceless.
We don’t talk as often as we did when we were younger. He lives five hours away from my home, and since his parents passed away he rarely has a reason to come home. Most of our conversations are seemingly superficial: a happy birthday here, a how’s it going there. I’m looking forward to spending a couple of days in his company and catching up. Although we are the same age, his family is younger than mine. His youngest child can still be fairly described as a baby, although surely she would dispute that. I had forgotten that kids are that little.
Underneath the birthday phone calls lies a foundation of love and respect. Our friendship has survived the years and the miles, and I hope and expect it will continue unabated, even if it is occasionally interrupted by the current of life.
The first night here, I’m celebrating a heart-warming reunion with great friends. Next, I’m planning to take a long look at this Hill Country to find out for myself what the fuss is all about. My father-in-law calls it God’s Country. I’m eager to see if I agree.

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