Editor's views: Bonds of old friends among life's greatest gifts

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Old friends, memory brushes the same years … ”  - Paul Simon

I'll never be among the wealthiest or most successful men, but I consider myself one of the luckiest. At least partly, I thank my old friends.
Last weekend, we gathered for the Badgers' homecoming in Madison, and we fell together like the wonderful friends we've been for going on six decades.
Two Mikes, two Scotts, a Jim, a John, a Bill and a Luke. We hugged; we shared updates on children and grandchildren; we enjoyed a tailgate, a few beers and a Badger victory on a glorious autumn day.
Mostly, though, we basked in the warmth of friendships that have endured and grown stronger through the years.
We all grew up in Fort Atkinson, and all but one graduated from high school in 1974. John was a year ahead of us, but he always felt more at home with our group. We all headed to UW-Madison to pursue fun and higher education, and we lived together in various configurations for most of our time there.
We went our own ways after college, but none of us went back to Fort. Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Boston, Madison, Chicago, Washington and Idaho have been home to one or more, but we've always kept in touch.
Interestingly, we've all done well. We were children of the 1960s and early '70s, and we became long-haired, rock-listening, fun-loving college students who were more focused on the next pub crawl than the next exam. Our parents wondered if we'd ever amount to anything.
Well, one become a doctor, another a lawyer and another a high-powered finance guy with a Fortune 500 company. They're mostly retired. The rest of us are still working, but we've made our ways just fine, and we can see more relaxation and travel in our not-too-distant futures.
Through it all, we knew we had something special, and we weren't about to let it go. We sometimes went a few years between gatherings, and not all of us could always make them. Kids, jobs and other complications got in the way. We made the most of our celebrations when we could, though. We always had. The parties are legendary, and we laugh until it hurts when we remember the late nights and the crazy behavior.
Now, we're in our late 50s, and we make a point of gathering at least once a year, often for a Badger football game. More years than not, we come together another time or two, and some of us see each other regularly for golf, a ballgame or dinner out.
These days, though, we're lucky to make 11 p.m., and we spend too much time talking about our ailments and afflictions. We're far from finished, though. We ended last weekend by planning our next outing, and it looks to be an adventure.
I remember people we met from other places in college wondering why we continued to hang out with our high school friends. Didn't we want to meet new people and expand our circles? Sure we did, and we all made plenty of new friends at UW.
None, however, could match the bond that this bunch from Fort Atkinson shared. Too many experiences. Too many memories. Too many good times ahead.
When I hear people talking about how they lost touch with their friends from youth or high school and have never felt a need to reacquaint, I think of my buddies. Of all the joys in life, there's nothing like old friends, and few people have shared so much over so many years.
Everyone should be so lucky.
Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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