Brian and I grew up next door to each other but it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve spent any real time with him, so it was very surreal to find myself sitting across from him at a Chili’s in downtown Concord. Brian’s older brother, Bruce passed away recently and at the service I met the 42 year old version of the kid I had grown up with, in addition to his 18 and 11 yr old sons and his 15 yr old daughter. Aside from having filled out a little, as we all have, he was the same kid, right down to the voice and facial expressions. It was a shitty excuse for a reunion though and before I left I got his e-mail address and we arranged to meet for lunch
As I said, Brian and I grew up next door to each other, Brian’s family on my left and Derik’s on my right. It was 1969 when all of our families moved to Concord. Dana Farms was still under construction and everyone was new to the neighborhood. We spent the 1970’s Derik, Brian and I, wrestling with the perils of childhood, with growing up and often with each other.
Three is a difficult number for kids and we were no exception. It seems that whenever Brian and I were on good terms, Derik was on the outs. When Brian and Derik found themselves palling around together, I sat alone on my front steps watching the two of them holding their breath as they ran past on their way from Derik’s house to Brian’s.
Most of the time everyone was on good terms and it was during these times that we were joined by our collective siblings to take part in games of 500, Three-Fly’s Up or street football, using “The Green Thing” and the street light as our end zones. Darting amongst the shadows, we played nighttime games of hide n’ seek and kick the can, even partaking in the occasional round of ding-dong-ditch. That is until Brian and my kid sister were caught by a grumpy couple that opted to chase them down rather than just curse and close the door. For years we schemed to get back at them and were disappointed that when we finally had the nerve to ding them again that they failed to give chase.
We would trick or treat together, back in the days when the neighborhood was young and the streets were literally swarming with kids, Brian and I struggling to keep up in our Siamese Skeleton costume. It’s amazing the memories that come back when you let them... sleep-over's watching Night of the Living Dead and Saturday morning cartoons. To this day I can’t watch Scooby-Doo without feeling like it’s a Saturday morning at Brian’s house. Sleepovers were also a time to discuss the “woman with 100 boobs”. Hey, we were eight- we figured the more the better.
There was my birthday spent eating hot dogs and peanuts at an Oakland A’s game; Derik’s dad taking us to a magic supply store and thumbing through his stacks of magic catalogs for cool stuff we'd never buy; Brian’s and my obsession with Happy Days and Fonzie in particular, which led to my infamous wipe out while trying to emulate the Fonz by jumping my bike over some garbage cans. I got a concussion from that one.
When we reached high-school, Derik and I attended De La Salle while Brian went to Clayton Valley. As Brian became more involved with the Mormon church we stopped seeing as much of him around the neighborhood. We all became busy with other friends and after school jobs and before we knew it we were graduating high school and Brian left for BYU, never to return to the neighborhood.
I have kept in touch with Derik and our parents still live next door to each other. We’ve seen each other through marriage and currently fatherhood, with all the accompanying ups and downs that both have to offer. But Bruce’s death and funeral once again forced me think about just how fast time goes by, and how it really wasn’t that long ago that the two men reminiscing over burgers and ice tea were riding their bikes and thinking about nothing more than a woman with 100 boobs.