Half a century

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By Wendy Hodge

Fifty years can go by in the blink of an eye. Just ask my best friend. By the time you read this, he will mark half a century on this planet. Tim was born in 1969, the same year as the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. It was the year of Richard Nixon and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.
Charles Manson made headlines, and Woodstock became a symbol of the times.
So much has changed in the ensuing decades. Presidents have come and gone. Fashion and hairstyles, cars and music, have all transformed many times over. Celebrities have risen to fame and fallen to obscurity. History has been written and re-written. The way we communicate is astonishingly unrecognizable in comparison to the 1960s. Technology has acquired a life of its own, becoming the driving force behind our daily lives. City maps and world maps have been redrawn and relabeled. The universe itself is more known to us, making it seem vaster and yet closer.
So much noise. So much accomplishment. So much to learn and to know.
But, if you ask my best friend, the 50 years since his birth have passed as quick as a breath. He has lived and worked and loved and laughed. He has become a husband and a father. He has walked through an immeasurable loss and still retained that smile that makes the world pause around me. He is a lover of water. He is a father who loves his girls through good and bad, through hormones and drama. He laughs often, deep and loud. His favorite things include caramel cake, Alabama football and early morning fishing. When he cooks, he opens every drawer in the kitchen… and leaves them open. But his meals are a masterpiece. He sings off key and rarely gets the lyrics right, but his voice is warm and I can’t help but sing along. He hates lines and crowds, but he took his girls to Six Flags… because he’s a fun dad.
In the time that I have known him, he has introduced me to raw oysters and to his oldest friends. He has given me flowers and the freedom to be myself. His family has welcomed me warmly. We’ve gone to estate sales and flea markets and thrift stores. We’ve traveled, and we’ve stayed at home. We’ve eaten exotic meals and cheap takeout. We’ve learned to read each other’s moods. We’re still learning how best to support each other when we disagree, which isn’t very often.
We’ve given each other nicknames. I call him “gringo,” and he calls me “Applestein.” The stories behind these are far too involved for this short literary venue. But I’ve never been called anything sweeter. We’ve made plans, both short-term and long-term. My day starts and ends with his voice, because technology is a beautiful thing. No matter what my day brings me, it’s his voice I hear when I need reassurance. We’ve cried a few times, because life is not a straight line. But mostly we’ve laughed. There is always laughter.
I know if Tim reads this, he will blush and be slightly uncomfortable. He is not one to draw attention to himself. But something the last 50 years have taught me is that tomorrow is a hope, but not a promise. People can be taken from us in a brief moment. And so it is always a good day to say the words your heart wants to say. And here they are: You are my best friend, Tim.
You’re my home. I am grateful for every day we have. Thank you for letting me be a part of them.
This weekend, we will go to the lake and celebrate with his children and his parents. It will be a dual birthday party – his dad is also an October baby. There will be caramel cake and Alabama football and fishing. The lake has been drained a bit, as they do every few years, so I’ve been told the fishing will be good – less water means better odds for a newbie like myself. If we’re lucky, the lake will be warm enough for swimming. And if we’re REALLY lucky, Tim’s mom will share more stories of times gone by. Of this I am certain, laughter will be heard across the lake, and I will raise my glass to say, “Here’s to the next 50 years!”
Wendy Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika. She previously had a column titled A Word or Ten, which was featured in the Tennessee Star Journal and is currently awaiting release of her first novel with Harper Collins Publishing Company.

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