Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, April 13, 2018


When I feel the need to let my spirit settle, I listen to Darrel Guimond play hymns on the trumpet. Darrel was my first BFF. We were ten years old. We met on Jimmy Bigham’s school bus just after my family had moved from the working-class inner-city of Indianapolis, 135 miles south to a little farm outside Oakland City.

Before Darrel, I’d had playmates, especially Jimmy Mencin, who lived across the street on N. Oakland Ave. in Indianapolis, but not friends. Playmates and friends are not the same thing.

A playmate is someone whose parents put you into the back seat of their car on VJ Day, when you are eight years old, along with their son, and drive downtown, honking their horn all the way, to join all the other honkers and shouters. They told me to bring something to make noise. I was not very adept at understanding how to make noise. I brought a pithy WWI toy helmet to beat on with a spoon. All that beating did not make much noise but did cave in the helmet. Mr. Mencin told me not to worry, that I would not need a helmet anymore. But it meant Jimmy and I could not play soldiers in his basement anymore, either.

Friends and playmates are not the same, and friends and BFFs are not the same, either. You talk with friends, and do things with them. That’s good. With a BFF, though, you go beyond talking and doing. A BFF is someone with whom you share hopes and dreams, fears and doubts.

By definition, there can be only one BFF, for “best” is exclusive, the one above all others. Through the years, though, I’ve had several BFFs, and one did not replace or displace another; they just sort of joined a special club.

As grade school and high school went along, I had other BFFs. Mike Dickey. Don Survant. In college, BFFs were Tom Cone and Jon Stroble. In seminary and through the years of ministry, there were others. It was an amazing and wonderful group.

Your first BFF is special, though, and Darrel was my first. We’d do sleepovers at his house and look at sex manuals he’d slipped out of the school library, via a flashlight, under the covers. There were line drawings that confused more than illuminated, and words that were so technical we did not understand them. But that is the kind of thing you do with your first BFF.

Yes, other BFFs through the years, but that first one has a place, an importance, no one else has, because that is the one who taught you how to be a friend to the others.

In old age, the BFF is someone with whom you share the memories and stories of hopes and dreams, fears and doubts.

Darrel became an engineer by profession, but he was such a good musician, so good on any brass instrument. At the 60 year reunion of my high school class, Butch Corn gave me a CD of Darrel playing hymns on trumpet. It’s nice to spend time with your first BFF, as I am doing now, listening to Darrel’s hopes and dreams.


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