Last time, I told you about meeting my old friend Gary Meier in a record store in downtown Eau Claire. At that initial meeting, we set up a date and time to meet for lunch where we could have more time to talk and catch up. That meeting was set for last Friday for a lunchtime meeting.
When Thursday got here, I received a message from an old college buddy, Dana Kellum, who was traveling around Lake Michigan with his wife and wanted to make a detour to come see Nicole and me. He was planning to arrive at 3:30 on Friday afternoon, right after my lunch with Gary. They could stay until Sunday morning.
This was shaping up to be quite the weekend.
I met Gary at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at Cancun Mexican Grill in Chippewa Falls. We bemoaned the foods that we can no longer eat as we both now had Type 2 Diabetes. We compared notes on medications we were taking and wondered what happened to those young theology instructors.
We had met while we were on the faculty of a theological seminary in Georgia. He was the finest instructor in Hermeneutics (the art and science of textual interpretation) that I had ever seen. And I had studied with the best of the best at Vanderbilt University.
We both left that seminary in the same year. I think he last 4-5 months longer than me. That’s another story for another time. He was offered a job as principal and instructor of religion at a Christian School. He wound up in Minneapolis and commuted from his home in Chippewa.
Gary is one of the smartest guys I ever knew but also is probably the funniest guy I ever met. He doesn’t tell jokes or make fun of people—he talks about his own life. This is only one of the things that made his such a popular professor and, later, high school teacher.
Apparently, when Gary was younger, he was the prodigious beer drinker. Back in those days, the legal drinking age was 18 years old and he took advantage of that. He told the story of drinking late (and long) one night. When he was ready to leave, he realized that he needed to go pee before he left. There was a long line for the bathroom, however, and Gary decided he could wait until he got home.
It was a cold, cold winter night in Bloomer and he only took a few steps when he realized that he was not going to make it on the long walk home. Not too far away was an abandoned building with stairs leading down. Perfect, he thought. Just go downstairs and relieve himself out of sight of anyone.
What he didn’t anticipate was the half-inch of ice on the steps. He had made it down two or three steps when his feet flew out from beneath him and he thunk-thunk-thunk descended the stairs. Too drunk to really feel the imminent bruising, he gained his footing to relieve himself on the landing…which was also covered in a sheet of ice.
At this point in Gary’s telling me this story, I have my hand clamped over my mouth to keep from spraying salsa everywhere. But Gary is relentless and he kept on.
“So, I have peed all over the frozen landing,” he continued, “but I had given no thought to how I am going to get out of there. Because, you see, there was no handrail in the stairwell. I made it up about one-third of the way when the ice betrayed me again and I slipped back, banging my chin on each step, all the way back down to the landing—the landing I had just covered in my own pee. I lay there for a minute and realized, ‘Oh, no. I’m laying in my own…’ and I jumped up and tried make it up the stairs again. Half-way up, I slipped back, once again banging my chin and each step. And once again, laying in more of my own pee.”
At this point, I am picturing Gary as one of those cartoon characters that kind of melts down the stairs and I can neither speak nor breathe.
“I think I made six or seven attempts and came to the conclusion that, if I just slept their in my own pee, someone would eventually find me and maybe throw me a rope. But I kept trying and, I don’t really know how, I made it back up to the street. I got home and took off my jacket and left it in the laundry room. Next morning, my mother knocks on the door and sticks her head into my room.”
“Gary?” she asks, “did someone pee on your jacket?”
“Yeah, ma,” he answered.
“Whose pee is this??” she asked.
Gary answered from under the covers, “Mine.”
“The funny thing is,” Gary concluded, “she didn’t say a word. She just closed the door.”
Now, obviously, I had nothing that could come even close to that tale. So, I talked about Nicole and how we met and married and how life is now everything I ever hoped it would be. Like all of my friends who knew me back in the day, Gary said that he has never seen me so content, so happy, as he sees me now.
We also talked about things that we still want to accomplish. But that is also another story for another day.
Later that day, Dana and Connie arrived.
[Next week: Part 2]
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