A college pal—a big time Christian, who wouldn't say "shit" if he had a mouth full of it—he and I have taken very different roads in life. We kept in touch—barely, some years, though determinedly—but we didn't see much of each other. The occasional phone calls between Chicago and rural Colorado were always frenetic and sometimes strained. Was he judging me? Was I judging him? And I'm sure there were times when we suspected the other had gone off the deep end.
Really, what did we still have in common, beside some old punch lines and the happy memory of the silly summers of our youth?
There was a meeting in the middle last spring, for a windy two-day golf orgy in Nebraska. The golf was competitive, the beers after were good and the old humor was there.
Mid-afternoon on the second day—we were teeing off the 10th hole for the second time—my pal turned to me and said at once casually but also clearly with aforethought—with a chuckle but with meaning:
"Hey, thanks for not turning out to be an asshole."
I just can't tell you what comfort I've taken in that plain line, spoken by my old friend.