by Dave Markwell

To have old friends, one must BE old. Well, I am and so are they. It is with no small sense of perverse pleasure that I endure the passing of time in my life with the compromised collection of individuals whom qualify as my old friends. Though my wife may, on occasion, raise an eyebrow about how, exactly, I could “qualify” some of these clowns, they are my friends and my qualifying standards are complex and intricate, but also as simple as the tick of a clock. We just ARE. With smiles and tears, we have shared each other’s milestones and missteps. We have held witness to birth and death and joy and ache. It is only through our oldest friends that we can truly hold the mirror up to our own lives and understand that little was in vain. We have tried and failed and sometimes succeeded. Life has changed us in many ways, but not all ways. With our oldest friends, we are our youngest selves. We return to glory years and the un-glorious, adventuresome roads that youth and bad ideas, and usually beer, have driven us. These are my favorite roads to travel.

This week an old buddy, JK, is visiting with his family. They live in New York and return home rarely. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, but it could have been yesterday. Time has no impact on old friendships. You can pick up where you left off. The stories don’t change. A couple of pounds or some gray hairs, here and there, are the only tells that a day has passed since the last visit. This state of stasis provides a safe harbor for our good thoughts. This is the comfort zone where life is its best.

Another buddy, DK, is turning 40 next week. Our history is littered with bad ideas and more silent, gasping, head-shaking belly laughs than is probably healthy. We know all the best and worst of each other. Tales exist that, out of mutual self-preservation, shall never be spoken of. We have lived our time on earth together. We now have wives and kids and obligations, but by some peculiar celestial intervention we always know when we “need to grab a beer”. Life in these moments becomes uncomplicated. It is stripped down to what matters. There is no pretense or posturing or agendas. There is only honesty and understanding and a sense that we are in this thing together. We are bound by a collective appreciation of our shared lives.

Someone once said that, “A good friend will bail you out of jail. Your best friend is sitting in the cell next to you saying, “Maaannn, that was awesome!!” I am very fortunate to have lots of best friends and feel eternally grateful to have shared experiences with all of them. From the back roads to the beaches to the rivers and mountains, the richness and beauty of life’s circus is richer and more beautiful because of my old friends and as the pages turn and years pass, I relive in story our countless adventures and explorations. This vast catalog of bad decisions and “WTF” moments will make me smile until I die. These are the stories of my life. It said that these memories are what will sustain us on our death beds. If this is so, then I am in pretty good shape, because, boy, I’ve got some doosies!!!

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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