Wednesday, November 26, 2008

laughter, the best medicine

I don't even know where to begin -- I can't remember the last time I had as much fun as I did tonight. Chris V., BR and Chad B. met me for dinner at Ruby Tuesday's here in Enterprise. BR and I got there first, and we just made general conversation. Chad joined us after a few minutes, and Chris came lagging in last.

We sat and talked for at least a couple of hours. We got a little rowdy -- well, a little rowdy for south Alabama, anyway. We told various stories about ourselves (some of them highly embarrassing), nearly all of them humorous. Our laughter filled the place up, and we barely had time to breathe between the reminiscing and the eating and the giggles. With all the stuff we did when we were younger, we're all four probably lucky to be alive today. Seriously.

Hearing all the old stories again -- and telling some of them, too -- made me happy. When BR said something incredibly funny, I was taking a sip of tea ... which I promptly spewed out. A cloud of fine mist blew all over BR. It made us laugh even harder. I had to go to the bathroom to keep from choking. I thought I was going to throw up at one point. BR headed to the bathroom right behind me, pretty much. He had to clean up. I feel bad about that part, but I'm also still giggling about it.

I think there were two key parts of the evening for me. I saw how Chad had changed a good bit. When he was younger, his humor was (or seemed) much more mean-spirited. But tonight I saw a better side of him -- a side that wasn't trying as hard. He seemed more comfortable, more of a fully realized person, than I remembered him. I think time away from Enterprise has certainly helped both of us mature.

The other part was talking with Chris V. afterward. Chris and I are the two single guys from our group. Of course, that changes for me on March 21. But we've both grown up a great deal ... in many ways, Chris and I each have our own reputations that we have to live down. But there's new maturity there on both sides. I can see it when he talks about his new church family, and how much those folks mean to him. I can see a boy I knew, really growing into his manhood.

I wrote earlier about the ties that bind a lot of us guys from that time period in my life. BR, Chris and I missed Elmo tonight. Some of the stories we told would not have been possible without him. Heck, most of the funniest ones are something Elmo said or did. He was the one among us who was born without any kind of filter whatsoever, who would say or do nearly anything you dared him to. He was with us in spirit and in our memories, though.

And I don't think any of us wanted it to end. As men, we shoulder so much of our lives on our own ... we don't want to burden others. We want to be able to handle our own business. But we also crave strong relationships with one another. We want friends we can count on. And that's one reason guys like us gather 'round a table or two whenever we get a chance. The bonds of our friendships were forged long ago. We've been through the fires, and we know we can count on one another.

I hope we do it again soon.