Friendship is a funny thing. Like so many things in life, good friendships go through a roller coaster ride, with ups and downs and curves and nice straight paths, sometimes moving quickly and other times plodding uphill.
My best friend when I was growing up in New Ulm was Rick Jorgensen. We hit it off in middle school and spent a lot of time together over the years. We shared a passion for sports, especially baseball. Neither of us was the greatest ballplayer, but we always had fun on the diamond.
We both worked at Randall Foods in high school and headed to his folks’ place after work to watch Sportscenter or a baseball game; he had cable, something I was envious of. His dad and mom, Warren and Jolene, were always so welcoming. They’d go elsewhere so we could crash in the living room, bring us snacks, and generally create a fun atmosphere. There were any number of nice evenings that we’d all sit outside and shoot the breeze, not something that’s always comfortable with your friends’ parents, but it worked with them.
Rick used to make trips over to Winona to visit while I was in college. He hit it off with my roommates as well, and we had many good times while pursuing higher education (if that’s what you want to label some of those weekends). I’d stop by to see his folks when I was in New Ulm; they would have been upset if they knew I was in town and didn’t say hi.
As we have traveled down life’s path, Rick and I haven’t seen each other as much. Life gets busy. He lives in New Ulm, but it often seems if we’re headed there, he’s out of town. The same has gone for when he might be visiting his in-laws in Albert Lea and we’re unavailable.
Sadly, this happens to many people. You can always hear stories of good friends from school who aren’t able to keep in touch as much as they’d like. Thanks to Facebook, I can keep in contact and keep up with what’s happening with Rick, and I still consider him a dear friend.
This was all driven home when his dad passed away recently. When my mom let me know that Warren Jorgensen had died, I knew immediately that I had to make it home for the visitation, even though it meant leaving a different family function early.
I was reminded of what I wrote recently when Carol Reese died, about how her children still have never called me by my first name. The same goes for Mr. and Mrs. Jorgensen. I had such high respect for those two that even at the wake, I called Rick’s mom Mrs. Jorgensen. I don’t feel comfortable otherwise.
It’s sad when your friends’ parents die, and this brought back the flood of memories at the Jorgensen household. I remember Mr. Jorgensen with a smile and a belly laugh most of the time. He was pretty straightforward, but he’d joke around and have a good time whenever possible.
The only time I’d ever see him upset was at an athletic event. As I stood in line at the wake, I had another classmate with me, and he reminded me of Mr. Jorgensen’s displeasure at some of the officials’ and umpires’ calls over the years. We laughed about that, and so did Rick when we told him of the reminiscing. More than once over the years, Rick would shake his head in the dugout or on the bench and mutter, “Oh, Dad…”
But it’s good to see and remember those things too. We often idealize the parents of our friends and believe they have no faults. We don’t usually see that side of them, but deep down we know nobody’s perfect. Still, if you can be close to perfection, Mr. Jorgensen was that. He volunteered a lot and stayed very active as long as he could. He had a kind word for everybody (except maybe some of those umpires) and brought joy wherever he went.
The world has one less smile in it now. However, I hope to make up for that by making more of an effort to rekindle a dormant friendship with Rick and bring more joy and those great belly laughs back into our lives.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is festinate, which means to hurry or hasten, as in, “We often festinate through life and should spend more time laughing and taking in the sights.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!