A New Appreciation for Old Teammates

I’m sitting in a St. Louis hotel room reflecting and chuckling about what once was and how it binds us in a sort of way. For most of the last two days I’ve sat in the living room of Jim and Lynn Fay, along with four other graying guys and their spouses, talking about our days as Judson College (now University) cross country teammates back in the mid-70’s.

I hadn’t seen most of the guys since college, or shortly after. Stan Brown was one of my groomsmen, but each other in a good three and a half decades. Jim Fay and I reconnected last March when he and Lynn were in Colorado for a few days of skiing. Our old coach, Don Kraus, is a Facebook friend but we hadn’t seen each other since 1976. Randy Moore was the grizzled veteran on our team, mostly because he was the only one married, worked maintenance and security for the college, and went to school full-time. he could kiss his wife without being written up for public display of affection. The rest of us could only dream about such a thing. Mike Neisler was the floppy-haired kid with the great laugh.

And so we came together and reminisced about team trips and retreats, our lack of funds that always had us camping out instead of staying in hotel rooms, the fun runs, and failed romances, the deaths of Marc Didier and Donna Shotwell that motivated us to look deep inside ourselves for more heart and effort as the way we could honor their memories.

We talked about, and had our own celebration of life service, for Dr. Stuart Ryder, who was our team training-in-training and also our coach. Most of all, though, we realized how much we appreciated one another and the impact of our team experiences had upon our lives. It wasn’t so much about running, but about relationships. We remembered the pains of our journey together, but even more, we treasured the personableness of being a part of a small college team.

As I sit here pondering I’m experiencing, if it’s possible, a strange mixture of joy and sadness. The joy sprays out of my soul in the realization of how blessed I am to have been a part of such a team, the camaraderie, the brotherhood. The sadness echoes within my spirit because of the reality of having to say farewell to one another. The richness of our experience this weekend made the last hugs on one another this afternoon even more difficult. Sometimes that’s how it is. The preciousness of our friendships has a way of causing the sorrow to be more intense.

But we wouldn’t change it for anything!

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