I’m going to see my old pal Frank tomorrow when he and his family come over for dinner. Because I have stayed in Minnesota, where we grew up, and he and his wife relocated to Washington, D.C. years ago, we have not met each other’s kids. So tomorrow my daughter will meet someone whom I’ve known for 25 years! And I’m really enjoying talking to her about how long 25 years is (only forever, duh!) and what it was like to play championship basketball with Frank when we were in junior high school, about the same age as our oldest neighbor kids.
I remember meeting a couple of my dad’s childhood friends when I was about the age my daughter is now. I guess I understood that my old man, who was eight years younger than I am now, had once been a young man. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that he grew up in my grandparents’ house, used to run around their yard. And anyway I think I always thought that whatever he may have done before me, he had always known me, or at least planned to know me- I was always on his mind, I figured. How could I not be?
And now here I am, trying to explain to my daughter that Frank and I were once the big men on two straight Osseo Basketball Association champions. Yes, we lost our first three games the first year and didn’t lose again for two years. No, I had no earthly idea I’d be a dad someday. A dad?! Whatever dude! Dad’s suck. They’re boring and fat; they’re slow; they like stupid movies.
Frank and I played, with considerably less success, on the same intramural basketball team throughout high school. And we went to community college together. Some time during the first semester I approached him with a plan: let’s get Vinny and the three of us move into an apartment. You may recall that Frank, Vinny, and I lived in that apartment for a year before Frank moved out to Seattle to live with a cousin, for the experience, and with much admiration on my part for what I considered an insanely brave move.
And life happened to us both. We haven’t seen each other much in the years since, but we’ve kept in touch. Not that my daughter knows that. Tomorrow she will be meeting a total stranger and she will struggle to understand how her dad seems to know this guy, this stranger, like he’s a member of the family. And she will no doubt fail to understand that in all those days before she was even present in my deepest daydreams, Frank was teaching me low post moves, or sleeping down the hall; that he is a member of the family, and that she should learn her family’s history because there is a lot of love there. And a lot of laughs.