Step by Step

This past weekend I was blessed to spend a bit of time with a wonderful friend who has been part of my life since we met in eighth grade. Although he now lives in Oklahoma, it?s our good fortune that he returns ?home? now and again to visit his family and friends. We?ve still much in common after all these years. When we reunite the time melts away and we?re chatting much the same as when we were two teenagers helping each other through adolescent angst. There is no pretense between us, for we?ve been through the best and the worst of times together. Our imperfections are known to each other, for the hallways of our pasts are etched with mistakes. Yet it is our strengths that we focus upon, and it is the wonder our futures that we delight in. As think on our friendship, I can feel my insides warm while the corners of my eyes crinkle in a heartfelt smile. Friends like this are rare and to be cherished as the most beautiful treasures of life.

True to form, he sent me a simple message upon arrival asking me what I?d like to do. My response, also fairly predictable, offered an invitation for a walk around Spring Lake followed by a home-cooked dinner. His succinct response noted, ?I like your style.? Those simple words put us back in stride, and when he arrived at my doorstep a few hours later, the arms that embraced me were as familiar and warm as the morning sun.

Two pairs of feet and one set of red paws were soon moving in unison up the steep path toward the lake. The hills were golden with the glory of autumn grasses, and birdsong filled the air. Pup, excited to be out and about in the fragrant evening air, began forging ahead to mark each mossy stone in his path. As pup cavorted to and fro like an errant child, the pattern of our steps fell out of unison, but the flow of our words remained steady and sure. I plied him with questions, and he laughed at my intensity. Too much time had passed since our last visit, and I felt a hunger to know what I had missed. As we followed the path, I learned?as I always did?that much in his environment had changed, but that he, my dear friend, had remained the same. As always, he was kind, humorous, insightful, dedicated, loving, and ever so much more. Underneath the seasoned man was the precious, aspiring boy I had fallen in step with those many years ago as we hurried to catch the bus.  In some ways, I realize that I will always look upon him with the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl. The open and guileless eyes of a child allow us to love in a way that we often aren?t willing to trust in life?s later years. But, oh, what an incredible place of love that is, that childlike, trusting love.

As we continued upon the path, the sun began setting and we paused to soak in the beauty of its last rays. The lake was cast in a shimmering glow of apricot and rose. We were stunned. Not simply by the incredible beauty of the environment around us, but by the beautiful bond of our friendship. We sighed in unison, both grateful for the gift of our time together.

Time disappeared all too quickly as we finished our walk through the meandering paths. I stopped as I noticed a bright, starry light in the sky. Delighted, I pronounced, ?A planet!? In the warm blanket of night, we chuckled as my darling friend gently corrected me, ?It?s a plane, m? dear.? With no moon in the sky to guide us, we carefully traversed the mountain toward the road where the car awaited. Chattering in the dark, with little but starlight to guide us, we laughed as though we were children set free in the night. Step by step, moment by moment, we cherished the wonder of our friendship.

The promise of dinner together awaiting us, we drove home with the delicious warmth of our love for each other filling the air. I cast a sideways glance at the gentleman beside me?my ?best buddy? as he is fond of saying. He knows my heart, and I know his. The words between us, the shared life stories, the laughter?they are dessert.

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