The picture above was taken in 2009, on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. I (on the left) was 19 years old, and I thought I was going to be doing this thing we were doing for the rest of my life. No, not skipping. I mean being with friends at 3:00 AM taking a random drive to the beach cause we feel like it. I mean camping out at a gas station just outside the city while one of them tries to decide whether to hold his urine and possibly explode, or use the crap ridden toilet on the side of the building. I always thought I would have my friends, but as it turns out family life quickly rids you of such notions.
I’ve certainly made new friends while being a Dad and Husband, I owe that all to the Philly Dad’s Group and the awesome people involved with it. The passion we share is the love for our kids, and it’s a wonderful passion for which to bring people together. But sometimes I wish my old friends had grown into this place with me. Started families as I have with wonderful women and come to appreciate the type of life I live.
I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about such things lately, because of a card I received in the mail a few weeks ago. It was from Domenic.
I met Domenic Casagrande in the Fall of 2008 in the back of a diner in small town Pennsylvania at 1:30am. His last name translates to “Big House” and that’s what he was called, because Dom is just that. Last time I checked he was just shy of 7ft tall with shoulders like an NFL lineman, and his voice would often boom with an intensity that matched his physique. He spoke a lot like the character Jay from “Jay and Silent Bob” and was always the first to recommend going out front for a cigarette. It was that same night that I met Jizzle.
Don’t worry, “Jizzle” isn’t his real name. His actual name is Ryan Johnson and after all these years I don’t think I’ve ever heard a clear explanation of how he got that moniker. All I know is that for every “Jay” there is a “Silent Bob” and for every Domenic, there should be a Jizzle. He’s always been more the quiet type but every so often, especially if he feels passionate about something, he’ll start rattling off like there’s no tomorrow. Other than that he was your average white boy from small town Pennsylvania who didn’t end up with lifted truck and a farm to take care of (I probably wouldn’t have liked him if that were the case.) Nowadays he’s a lot different from the person he was, but all of it in good ways, and now he’s become a part of a family as I have. His Girlfriend and her wonderful daughter have brought a real smile to that face that was missing for a time, and his dedication to the both of them seem endless at this point.
The above mentioned card I received was one that I didn’t really think about over the past 7 years, but it was one I had, in some deep part of my soul, been waiting for a long time. On the front the card says:
And hand written on the inside, in a way only “Big House” could, it said:
“I need you buddy. P.S. Open Bar. Love, Dom”
That big son-of-a-gun, who a few months ago moved to Texas with his awesome Girlfriend, now has a Fiance’. I had known about the engagement for some time, but dammit, I’m going to be at his side when this thing goes down. He’s been building a life, and now he’s building a family like my Wife and I have. And after almost 2 years of barely talking, and barely seeing each other due to jobs and lifestyles, he still wants me there for possibly the happiest day of his life.
My two best friends are becoming a part of this “Strange New World” I embarked on years ago, and despite it keeping us a part for a while, it seems like not a single day has gone by in the strength of our friendship. With our new family’s in tow we are still as close as the day we played “baseball” with our shirts off in the empty parking lot of that diner, for Jizzle’s birthday. Or one of the many times we hung half our bodies out of our car windows as we drove to the beach on a beautiful Summer day. I don’t know if they feel the same way, but there it is, all poetic like.
I’ll always have my boys. That’s how I feel. Distance, time, nothing will keep me from my go-to guys. Nor them from me.
People say getting married and having kids changes you, and you don’t have the same friends you used too. You don’t have the same lifestyle and you’ll change in ways you didn’t know were possible. Well we’ve all changed, even grown apart in some ways.. Yes we’ve changed, and this life we have isn’t how it used to be. No more chain smoking cigarettes and plowing through endless carafes of coffee. No more random drives in the middle of the night, or having drunk “jumping competitions” in the pool. No we’ve changed, in many ways, but we’ve changed for the better. We changed together.
The three of us haven’t been in the same room for a long time, but when that happens again, we’ll be surrounded by the families we’ve brought together, and the love that we’ve come to create. There are many friends I have lost, dead or just living different lives, and I’ve thought about them too. The few I still communicate at all with I say, good for you and take care. It’s not that I don’t remember what we used to be, it’s that I know the type of future it can be with the friends I have now.
It will be more epic than you can possibly imagine.