Tommy Gleghorn was a friend that I saw once a year, when my family would visit my grandparents in Clarksburg, West Virginia. I was in elementary school and life was very good. I had a happy home. I had friends in my neighborhood. I played Little League Baseball. I was in Cub Scouts. And I rode my bike everywhere.
Each summer, we would load up the car and we would head out for our annual, what seemed to me to be an eternity, trip from Crown Point, Indiana to Clarksburg, West Virginia. We would make this trek so that we could visit with my mom’s parents. By this time in life they had grown older, sold the family farm and had moved into what they would have classified as “the city”.
Their house was at the bottom of a large hill, the last house on the right. Up the hill and to the right was my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I always assumed that this was the reason why my grandparents moved into that neighborhood, so that they could be close to family.
Directly across the street from my grandparent’s house was the woods. But, just up the street a little, on the same side of the street as the woods, was Tommy’s house. Tommy was my age and he was the reason why I had any glimmer of excitement about going to see my grandparents. Now I know what you are thinking. I should have been excited to visit my grandparents. But I was between the ages of eight and eleven years old. So, stop shoulding on me.
It was over these several years of annual trips to see my grandparents, that I discovered the reality of time, as it pertains to relationships. See, before this experience, my world had been very static. The people I saw one day would be the same people that I would see the next day.
Any friends that I had at home, since I saw them each and every day, didn’t seem to change at all. Because their changes, their growth, their evolution of life was happening right in front of my eyes. Yet, I only saw Tommy once a year. And when you are between the ages of eight and eleven, there is a great deal of change that occurs in one year.
I remember playing trucks in the dirt and riding bikes in his yard. I remember basketball games at the public court up the street. I also remember that every year the transition time, when I would first arrive and excitedly knock on his front door, got increasingly awkward. Every year it would take longer for both Tommy and I to acclimate to the fact that an entire year had gone by, since the last time we saw each other.
In essence, we were both very different then the kids who had hung out the previous summer. We both wanted to continue to hang out, but as the years went by it got more and more clumsy. At first, we would simply try to pick up where we left off, playing trucks in the dirt or riding bikes in his yard or playing basketball up the street. Yet, we both had an entire year under our belt, since our last visit.
What we used to do just didn’t seem as fun as it once did. We would have to struggle and strain until we found our new thing for that summer. Then, as quickly as it all started, it all ended. I would pile back into the car with my family and head back to Indiana for another year.
The sad thing is that I don’t remember how and when Tommy and I stopped hanging out. I suppose it was around the time that my grandmother died and my grandfather had to sell the house and move away. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Tommy. If I would see him today, would we again be able to connect? Would he remember those summers of our youth as I do? Or are my memories made up of bits and pieces of reality, combined with random clips of Disney movies?
What I will always remember about my friendship with Tommy is that I learned the very valuable lesson that time indeed moves on. It was through this relationship that I realized this reality, actually I lived this reality, for the very first time. In this relationship we were both forced to deal with this reality. Up to that point, in my life, I had never had a friend that I only saw once a year.
My friendship with Tommy introduced me to the fact that as time passes, we not only get older, but we change. Our interests change. Our lives change. And no matter how badly we might want to simply go back, we can’t. We are always moving forward. Onward and upward into a new day, a new year and a new life.