I had a great experience yesterday when three of my close friends from the dorms I lived in in Berkeley during the 1974-'75 school year flew in for a few hours of sharing old memories and making new ones. Karen "Smalley" Bixby called me a couple days ago and asked if she could fly from a conference in Chicago for a few hours and then go back later yesterday afternoon.
I replied, "Of course, that would be great, but I could not come to get you at the airport. Maybe Mike Ross could pick you up and take you back when you needed to fly out?"
Kathy (Keen) Mancuso lives in Houston now and when Karen proposed the idea to Kathy, Keeno was ready to come if she could get good flights with corresponding times.
Here is a picture of the four of us, as they were getting ready to leave:
As always, click on the image to make it larger:
Mike had me order some Chinese take-out food for lunch, which they picked up on the way to my apartment. Karen helped feed me with chopsticks, which she was very adept at using! There is no way I can use those sticks!
The year I was in Putnam Hall was the first year the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) started integrating students with disabilities into the general student population. UC Berkeley was way ahead of its time! The program has since dropped the first word, Physically, from its title and is now known as DSP. It is housed in the Ed Roberts Campus, which is located a few blocks from campus and was started to honor all of the work Ed did around the world for the disability community. I have written about him before and you can find that post by clicking on his name in the labels at the end of this post.
Karen was a Resident Assistant for Freeborn Hall. She went out of her way to make friends with the three students with disabilities that lived in Putnam. It was no easy task since Greg was unable to speak and had to spell everything slowly on his lapboard. Gary lived on the other side of me and spoke very slowly and non-discernible by most people. I became his interpreter and when anyone new would join us at lunch, they would look to me to tell him/her what Gary was trying to say.
Another story everyone remembered fondly was getting my mail because I could not open the mailbox, which was high on the wall and down one floor. When my mother would send pictures of my little brother, Chad who was just a few months old when I moved to Berkeley and he was learning to walk, she would send a half dozen pictures a week of Chad as he grew and changed every week. Mom would write "Do Not Bend" on the envelope in several places!
Whomever got my mail would run up the stairs screaming, "Mike, you got another, 'Do Not Bend'" We all knew what that meant so several people would gather in the lush courtyard right outside the cafeteria and pass around a half-dozen more pictures of Chad looking left, Chad looking right, Chad sitting up, Chad standing up. You name it, Mom will deny this but she was encouraging me to come home in her subtle ways! The funny thing is, it worked!
I tell everyone that asks what was the best thing I have ever done? I tell them, "The second best thing I ever did was move to Berkeley."
Their response is always, well then what was the best thing you ever did? I always reply, "I moved home." I say that not because of my friends I made in Berkeley and the growing I did on a personal level, but rather how my life has grown in so many ways since moving back, finishing my degree at the University of Minnesota and the changes my life has taken since I left Berkeley in 1975.
Another irony in this move was several years after I moved back and Chad graduated from college he moved to Southern California and has been there for many years now! It was fun for Kathy and Karen to see pictures of Chad now as a forty-two-year-old entrepreneur living in Southern California!
We shared stories of our memories of the fairly short time in our lives where we were actually together and how that school year has made lasting friendships that have lasted more than forty years!
I want to close with a picture of the three of us men who attended our dinner at Trader Vic's Restaurant in San Francisco when I took eight other friends and myself to a four-hour dinner for $150! We had a blast that night and stories abounded about who remembered what from that treat. I like this picture because the three of us all had cool 1970s hair!
Besides Mike Ross In his flashy velvet jacket and me was Doug Hamblin, Mike's roommate.
As always, click on the image to make it larger:
Like I said earlier, the four hours just flew by and I wish it could have lasted longer. I do not believe a minute went by when somebody was not talking, usually while somebody else was telling her or his memory of a particular story!
It always amazes me how all the stages of my life keep coming back in various ways by people who made a difference in that particular piece of my life. At 61, I have a hard time believing I have managed to live in so many places and acquire so many friendships on levels I cannot describe. I have managed to live more than forty-four years with a high-level spinal cord injury and I am feeling the aging process along with everything that goes with my injury. Yet, there are many days I feel like I can turn those numbers around and I feel 16!
As always, I look forward to your comments.