A lasting Band of Brothers
We first met almost 43 years ago. Just out of high school, there were forty plus boys/men that came together as freshmen at Auburn and became pledges of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. We went through a lot together and eventually promised that we would always be a lasting band of brothers.
Like almost any group of that size, you are held together by some common bond which in this case was simply fraternity life and the social activities that we all shared. As we graduated and went our separate ways, the bonds became a little less tight.
We were in each other’s weddings, gathered as our children were born, and tailgated at football games before life became more complicated. Years might pass without seeing some of your pledge brothers. Contact was lost with many even as you still gathered with others for an annual golf gathering.
Like with high school friends, old co-workers, or even family, the more years that pass without contact, the harder it is to reconnect. Your memoies of your friends are frozen in time; what they looked like, what they sounded like, even what you had in common.
This past weekend I was in St. Petersburg, Florida for a few days. I happened to see one of my old pledge brothers on Facebook and he was vacationing at another hotel in St. Pete. Less than an hour later, I heard from another pledge brother that had noticed where I was on Facebook and told me he was in St. Pete for a meeting at yet another hotel.
Monday afternoon, I drove over to one of the hotels where one of them was staying. Steve Shive, along with his twin brother, Ron, lived in the same apartment complex I did as a freshman. These apartments would more likely be called closets today, but we were perfectly happy with the tiny places that we called home.
Steve and Ron both became Presbyterian Ministers. I did not see either of them for at least twenty five years until the Presbyterian General Assembly I attended last June, when we met for lunch. I saw Steve again at the hotel this weekend, along with his son, Justin. We caught up for a while, talking as easily as if we had seen each other every day.
Norman Gayle was from Montgomery, along with about half my pledge class. He always had a smile on his face and a quip on his lips. He became successful in the insurance business. I enjoy following him on Facebook to see what part of the world he is currently is in. Monday he was in St. Petersburg.
I saw him walking out towards the pool and called his name. Amazingly, he immediately called my name back when he saw me. It is amazing only because we probably haven’t seen each other in thirty years. However, from our conversation it was like it was only yesterday that we had talked.
Facebook can be a lot of things. It can be addictive and shallow. It can foster rumors and damage the lives of those that act irresponsibly. However, Facebook and other types of social media can foster positive things, including helping old friends reconnect.
In the most unlikely of ways, I was able to talk with two old friends this weekend. Three guys from three different states, who haven’t been in touch in years got to hug and laugh and share old memories.
In 1972, I gained a new group of brothers. This weekend I realized that those bonds still remain strong no matter where we are or where we have been, even 43 years later at a chance meeting in St. Petersburg. Phi Alpha to them all.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org