Two Sundays ago I received an unexpected phone call from old friends who were traveling to Las Vegas for a vacation they had planned over a year ago. They asked if I could meet them there. It was fairly short notice, but I asked Farrah if I could go to Vegas because I hadn’t seen these friends in over 20 years. After working out the financial details - after all, have you seen the airfare prices! - I booked a flight on Southwest Airlines, got a hotel room, and made my way out to Las Vegas last Friday.
James (Bubba) and Lisa, my friends from Air Force days long ago, picked me up at McCarran airport. When Bubba stepped out of their brand new Dodge truck, he didn’t seem to have changed much. Oh yeah, there were few wrinkles on his face, covered by a scruffy beard that we wouldn’t be allowed to have in the service, but he was the same old Bubba. I gave him a big hug, then went around the driver’s side to get into the truck. I greet Lisa, who was driving, with a warm hand to the shoulder as we drove away from the airport.
We first talk about the weather in Vegas - it was about 98 degrees at 10 PM! - and about my flight. We take care of the things I needed to get done - check into the hotel, dump my stuff in the room, grab a bite to eat - then we head to hit the slots (them) and blackjack (me).
Of course, we talk about the past, about people’s names we can, at times, barely recall. We talk about things we’ve done together back-in-the-day, the shared memories or how we remember them. We speak of the 20 plus years apart, and the people in our lives now, about family and friends on each side who are unfamiliar to each another. We convey to each other our individual triumphs and hardships we’ve endured, the journey and battle scars that life inflicted upon us up to this point in time. We spend the next three days sharing all of these memories.
It’s difficult to predict how often we will be in contact with each other after leaving Las Vegas. We left each other with big hugs and the promise of staying in touch, and I know we’ll try our best to do so. But I recall making such a commitment to my Uncle David in the Philippines when I was eight years old. I promised I would write. He said, “You’ll forget me. You’ll forget to write. But that’s OK, for we will remember each other until the day we die. This is just how it is.”
I wrote to him briefly, but I grew up and, as he predicted, forgot to write. Who knows, with email and the Internet this may change with Bubba and Lisa. And as they read this, as I hope they read this, I’m sure they are saying, “You’re damn right we’re keeping in touch.”