March 29, 2013 1 Comment
Yesterday while pounding a “FOR SALE” sign into the front yard of Papa’s house, the last on a dead end street, a man ambled toward me from next door. I had not met any of Papa’s neighbors; he was very jealous of our time together and would not abide my chatting over the fence with anyone. Now that Papa is in a long-term care facility, I had been expecting curious contact by one of them as they had no doubt noticed the lack of his boisterous presence. I met the man, a very pleasant fellow about my age, and we discussed the news about Papa’s hip fracture and subsequent decline in health. He told how when Papa first moved in about ten years prior, he had a habit of wearing Speedo shorts and nothing else around the yard. This in itself was a somewhat painful visualization, given Papa’s skin-on-bones physique, but he told me that whenever Papa bent over, his man-parts would make a grand entrance. I tried gouging my eyes out, but the neighbor stopped me from going through with it.
Finally he asked me my name and I told him, and he stared hard at me a moment and then asked me where I went to middle school. When I said it had been in Muscle Shoals in the late sixties and early seventies, the man excitedly told me where I had lived, who my neighbors and friends were, and where he lived, too, then exclaimed “I’m Mike.”
For a few seconds it didn’t register, but then memories flooded me like a thunderclap. “Mickey!” I yelled in glee, then gave him an unsolicited bear hug and bit of joyful pounding on the back. Mickey had been one of my very best friends in the seventh and eighth grade. We only lived a block apart and practically lived at each others’ houses. Good ole Mickey! My God, it had been forty three years since we had seen each other! We started chattering away, not bothering to tell each other what we had been doing all those years, because we were suddenly swept up in our past. Mickey!
At twelve years old, our lives revolved around bicycles with extended forks, banana seats and tassels on the handlebars, and we knew every square inch of our neighborhood. We played golf in our back yards, pretending to be Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas. We spent hundreds of hours hanging out at Deer Park, an abandoned theme park about three blocks away, our imaginations turning the overgrown place into a wonderland of fun. As we reminisced, a memory from our times together came up and smacked me in the head. “Do you remember that we used to wear superhero outfits and run around the neighborhood with a mission to help animals in need?” At that moment I was no longer fifty four years old, for I was sailing around the neighborhood on my chopped out bike, my cape flapping majestically as Mickey rode bravely beside me in his own costume.
“Yes!” Mickey exclaimed, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he had migrated back to those days, too. “We used to climb up on boulders at Deer Park and jump off, hoping we would fly.”
Memories long buried flew to the surface. “I sent a letter to the President back then…it was Nixon, for crying out loud…asking him to give us jet packs so we could be proper super heroes! He sent a letter back with a photo of his dog Checkers and a note saying that even though he couldn’t fulfill our request, he admired our efforts and encouraged us to keep up the good work. Man, I had forgotten all about that!”
We moved on to other tales of our exploits, and for almost an hour we carried on like a couple of school boys. Finally I had to leave, so we exchanged phone numbers and a few more laughs and hugs and promised to keep in touch. I thought about Mickey all the way home and into the evening, still happily stunned at the wonderful synchronicity of our meeting.
Then as I prepared for bed I remembered our super hero names. I was Animal Man and he was Dog Boy. I laughed and laughed, and then chuckled myself to sleep. Finally, after so many years, the dynamic duo had found each other. I dreamed of flying last night and had the second best time of my life. Today I’m not so sure which one of us was Dog Boy, but that’s not important. I found a part of me that had been dreaming for far too long.