C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

How sweet are shared experiences

John and I were small children together, and I’ve had no other friend for as long, nor any more loyal.

His home and mine were in the modest, unincorporated little community of Marlborough, outside the south city limits, in what seemed almost like true country.

That was in the early 1930s, and it would be another 15 years before the area was annexed.

At age 4 or 5, conscripted by our parents to attend the little Methodist church at the south end of the main street, we would slip out between Sunday school and the actual service to wrestle and romp on the church lawn, safe from supervision.

One memory of that time was that his father, Joe, raised beagles and could run rabbits with them in that semi-wild area around their house.

Years fled unnoticed. We came of age to be educated, and Johnny (for we were Johnny and Chuck then) began at a school nearby that contained all the grades from kindergarten through 12.

My parents had moved 20 blocks north into the city proper to a home in what now is sometimes referred to as the “murder ZIP code” but was then a hospitable and stable neighborhood with a fine elementary school.

Two years later we moved again, another nine blocks north, and the connection with my boyhood chum was further interrupted.

But then John’s parents joined the northward migration, and at afternoon recess on the first day of the next school year we were reunited.

From that time onward – through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and on until high school graduation – there was no break in our friendship. And since college it has continued through adulthood.

I was best man in his wedding, and he in mine. We married above ourselves, and the unions have lasted. And we both have managed to make our careers with words – he in advertising, I in journalism.

On a recent golden day of autumn, we went for lunch together to an establishment with a menu of which our wives and our physician acquaintances would fiercely disapprove.

We’re of the same age – both of us with some of the usual physical complaints common for gentlemen of our vintage, with histories of a once fashionable but now regrettable addiction to the weed.

The restaurant was not crowded. The waitress was patient, and I can’t say how long we occupied our booth.

When reliving in memory so many years and such an abundance of shared experiences – while understanding, not morosely but realistically, the preciousness of the moment – time is of no consequence.

We vowed there’d not be another interval of so many months before we again break bread together.

The waitress appeared then with two desserts, so large and obscenely rich that we dared neither to finish them nor to take the leavings home.

And after that we had what I believe was our first real argument in 60 or so years. The dispute was over who got the check. In the end we shared it, as is right for friends.