Revise and update

Published 1:05 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

One of the best things about returning to live in Suffolk a couple of years ago is the opportunity I’ve had to revisit the people and places that feature so prominently in my memories of growing up here.

Sometimes, I’ll pass the house where a high school friend once lived, and my thoughts quickly return to those days, which are, after all, further removed from today in reality than in my consciousness. A fellow member of the football team lived there, I’ll recall, or a former girlfriend, and then the sights and sounds of those teenage years come flooding back.

Heading around the curve on Matoaka Road where I rolled a car at the age of 16, I wonder how fast I must have been going or how little attention I must have been paying to have lost control of the vehicle as I did. Via Facebook, I remind the friend who was riding with me at the time that he cursed at me throughout the accident, a point he has forgotten in the decades between then and now. He’s slightly embarrassed; I figure I deserved it.

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Crossing the Godwin Bridge, I recall afternoons spent on the river or on one of Suffolk’s peaceful lakes — back when people had no reason to worry about bacteria or other pollutants in the water, and getting a bad sunburn didn’t necessarily mean that cancer was knocking at your door. I remember trying to develop a taste for oysters at the CE&H Ruritan Club, while wondering to myself just how food served with a shovel was supposed to be appetizing.

Not all of the memories are happy ones, of course.

Every time I visit Cedar Point Country Club, for instance, I remember hearing the news that my father had died of a massive heart attack while headed to his car after a round of golf on Memorial Day in 1999.

But being back at home has given me a chance to revisit and update some of the sad memories — even the one of my father’s death, as I discovered on Friday.

At the time of his death, my father was president of the North Suffolk Rotary Club, and he had many good friends there. On the day of my father’s funeral, one of those friends gave us his own Rotary pin to put on my father’s suit coat when we could not find Dad’s own pin in time for his burial.

It was a tender act of love from one best friend to another that we never thought we’d be able to repay. And then Mom found Dad’s pin in a drawer this week, and I was able to give it to that man, who still lives in Suffolk and still misses his friend, my father.

I watched the emotion on this old friend’s face as I told him where the pin had come from and why I was giving it to him. And as I recognized the face of a man temporarily overwhelmed by his memories, I said a silent prayer of thanks — for friendships that are stronger than death, for the people and places in Suffolk who helped shape the man I’ve become, for the occasional, beautiful chance to revisit and update sad chapters in my life, and for God’s grace, which makes all these things possible.