Maybe it’s the fall, or the fact that I’m missing the fall, but every September my heart starts to feel the season change as if it were turning from blood red to golden orange and yellow, like the trees I recall from my youth.
During these months I can’t help but think of my close friend Bob. Ours is a friendship that’s grown into one of the tightest relationships I have. I was the best man in his first wedding, an honor I still hold close to my heart even though that relationship didn’t last. That wedding took place in late summer, 1991, just after I returned from my first California adventure. While I’m not an ardent Billy Joel fan, “And So It Goes” is a reminder of that time in his life, and it conjures images of Bob’s strength against the punches life threw at him when things fell apart.
Bob and I met during my freshman year at Bowling Green; he was the pledge trainer in my fraternity. Since it was the band fraternity, I didn’t take the organization too seriously; I was a cocky freshman who thought he was much better than those other band geeks. Thankfully, I learned what a fool I was, as the men in that fraternity became my best friends. Bob and I wound up living next to each other during my sophomore year; that was the point when things changed, and we began to turn to each other for advice, encouragement, and beer. Throughout the remainder of my college years, whenever Bob came to Bowling Green for a visit, he was sure to stop by our house and hang out, maybe even crash for the night.
On one of those visits, he proposed to his girlfriend in the stadium seats as a BG football game was played in the background. It was a great romantic gesture, one that is as clear to me today as the heat coming from the sun on that afternoon. Soon thereafter, he asked me to be his best man and honestly, I had no clue what I was supposed to do. Still, I stood by his side and watched as they exchanged vows. When they moved into their first apartment, I was a frequent visitor and considered it a safe haven away from home.
Sadly, the marriage did not last. I feared for Bob and what the divorce would do to him. Would he be incredibly pissed? Would he be sad beyond consolation? I wasn’t sure. To make matters worse, when his marriage ended, Julie and I were already living in California, so the best I could do is be a voice on the other end of the telephone. Helpless, that’s how I felt. And yet, Bob seemed to pull through okay. He would fall in love again; he would accomplish great things in his life, and he would continue to be a stand-up guy.
In my office hangs a picture Bob took at Yosemite, a photograph of a waterfall in black and white. Something about that image is so profound, yet in its two tones, also very melancholy. When I stare at that image long enough, I begin to hear this song from Billy Joel’s album Storm Front. The last time I saw Bob was this past July. We caught up with our other college friends, Dan and Brad. All four of us have had some rough times and seemed to come out on the other side okay. Coincidentally, I saw Billy Joel on the Storm Front tour with Dan and Brad. While our excursion to Detroit and quick jaunt into Canada (for the hell of it) is a great memory, it’s Bob who comes to mind when those first chords of “And So It Goes” come through the speakers. It could be the fact that I missing the fall or that I’m missing the leaves changing colors, but the truth is, I’m missing my friend and wishing the best for him.