This, That and Other Stuff


Bob Neuman

In the ancient but great poem “The Odyssey” by the Greek author Homer, Odysseus has fought in the Trojan war and is attempting to return to his home in Ithaca. However, the gods are against him and send numerous evils to stop him.

The Sirens, a group of lovely ladies, sit on the jagged rocks at the ocean’s edge and sing so sweetly that ships are steered toward them and destroyed as they crash against these rocks. But Odysseus orders his crew to put wax into their ears which enables them to sail the ship by without harm and focus their efforts on what is important — arriving back home.

I was thinking one day about friends. It seems that when we are young, although we have acquaintances, buddies, chums and friends, we do not really focus on them or think whether the association will be lasting. They are just kind of there.

With all the diversions … and, yes, trials … of reaching maturity, other things predominate. We become busy with school, courting, marriage, children, pleasures and hundreds of other necessities and activities. We listen to the Sirens’ Songs, and they take our time and energy. We forget and lose track of the friends we swore we could cherish and remember forever, writing it probably in their high school yearbook.

Later, we may think of those who were important to us once, but we seldom make the effort to renew these friendships. We, instead, listen to the song of the world’s Sirens.

Now at my age, things mean less to me, but my interest in people has taken on a new importance. I enjoy meeting new people and learning their backgrounds and hearing their ideas. Not only that, I have made an effort in recent years to find and renew contact with some of those who were once important in my life.

Some time back, I attended the 50th anniversary of my Indiana high school. I have always been excited about going to these events, because very special people comprise the class. Perhaps anyone who has graduated feels that way about his class, but we have always maintained an interest in and genuine liking for each other.

This reunion, however, was the best. Maybe with the passing of so many of the classmates, we were aware of the short time we have left and were able to savor the gathering with even more intensity.

Another effort I made several years ago while still living in Indiana was to call and visit a lady who lived then in a nearby city. We spent a brief time talking about our high school days and enjoying each other’s company. I had not seen her for many years, but she had been a special girl friend of mine once.

A while ago, I had encounters with two fraternity brothers I knew well at Ball State. One had disappeared just after graduation years ago. After locating his address on the Internet, I sent him a Christmas card. A reply soon came that brought back some nice memories. He lives in Michigan, and I am here in Arizona. We may never meet again in person, but we did connect briefly.

The second fraternity brother contacted me to say that he had discovered my location through the alumni association and would be in the area. He would call and come to visit me.

His letter brought apprehension, for he was not one of my favorites. Back then, he was loud, boisterous and unpredictable in his behavior. It was said that he had a fine mind but zero common sense.

Nevertheless, my wife and I wrote and said we would be available to see him. The dreaded meeting finally came when he arrived with his wife to spend the afternoon and have dinner at our house. To our surprise and relief, he was the opposite of his college days, and our evening was extremely pleasant as we discussed mutual topics.

Age often has a way of knocking off the rough corners. I now have some dear friends who go back over 50 years live near, and I cherish each time I can be with them.

Like everyone, I heard the Sirens singing when younger. One’s life is so brief. Thank goodness I finally put some wax in my ears and focused on people before it became too late. How about you?