Satchel Paige once said: Don't look back, something might be gaining on you.
That prophetic thought slipped into my head Saturday as I sat among a gaggle of college classmates and friends, most of whom I had not seen since a wedding in 1979. We attended school at the University of Missouri in the early 1970s, and graduated in 1972 and 1973.
It was a long time ago, we agreed, but only a microsecond in time.
My best friend among them, a fellow Missouri Journalism School graduate, had finally organized a reunion after trying for several years. The original intent was to attend the Missouri vs. Florida football game (Go Tigers!), but with tickets costing $75 to $100, we opted for a cozy bar with 60-inch televisions scattered throughout.
What I saw in my friends was how 34 years of life has taken its toll — me included. We were no longer the skinny, bright-eyed young men who were just beginning to tackle the world and start families. Even our idealism was waning as we struggled to remember how we spent our college years. Our shoulders were a bit more stooped, and our bellies a bit more pronounced.
We had changed so much I didn't even recognize the person with whom I had shared the second floor of the house. He was quite thin at the time with long, flowing reddish hair. Today, his hair is etched with grey and barely touched his ears.
But the instant I saw their smiles Saturday morning, the moment I heard their voices and their laughs, it all came back. We laughed and scratched and argued over the way we remembered things in the early 1970s at the University of Missouri. Funny how time erases some of the memories, but imbeds other great moments as if they happened yesterday.
Hamburger Helper was our staple in the day, and we laughed about the time Kerry confused cinnamon and chili powder and put two tablespoons of cinnamon in. He claims the rest of us didn't notice. I doubt that. But it was food, and we were hungry.
We shared both cooking and dish washing duties. I remembered the first time Kerry washed dishes in cold water and couldn't figure out why the plates were still greasy. He learned a valuable lesson: Hot water and Dawn.
And yet, we thought we could conquer the world.
My college door roommate, then from Denison, Texas, is a recently retired newspaper reporter in Little Rock, Ark. Diabetes has slowed him so badly that he was afraid his feet couldn't take the strain of walking the campus and the downtown area of Columbia. He stayed home.
He did, however, send us photos from his collection of our days as roomies first in the dorm and later in a small house we rented. Those were the days, my friend. Those were the days.
Page 2 of 2 - Kerry, Rusty and I were journalism students. Another of us was a nuclear/electrical engineer; and another was a math major.
Listening to the non-journalism majors and how they've traveled all over the country and the world, I wondered if maybe I'd taken the wrong turn.
It's a treat for me to cross a state line. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, so we must move on.
We settled in at Truman's, a quaint watering hole on the west side of Columbia, about 10:30 Saturday morning, an hour before game time. The bars we frequented just off campus in the early 1970s have been replaced by an alumni center and beautifully landscaped area.
This time, we opted for a bar less populated by rowdy college students, and more frequented by older and more responsible people.
Two of our group live in Kansas City; two others in the St. Louis area; and two others in a Chicago suburb. We shared 34 years of our lives during television commercials, while we walked the campus and during a quiet dinner at the Bleu Restaurant in downtown Columbia. Two are divorced, one had lost her husband, and we had only sired seven children between us.
We laughed about the unlikely prospects of meeting again in 35 or 40 years, so we promised each other we'd do it again the third weekend of October next year. With handshakes and hugs, we went our separate ways once again.
I did glance over my shoulder at my friends as we walked to our cars, and realized Satchel Paige is right: Our collective mortality is on our heels.
And so we move on.