Last Saturday was one of best days I’ve had in a long time. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and had the opportunity to get tickets to see the Fighting Illini football game vs. Purdue.
Sat in the “horseshoe” on the south end of Memorial Stadium. The whole game was a back and forth battle. It seemed that the Illini might be victorious until the last few moments of the 4th quarter, Illini punter Ryan Frain kicked what could have been the game winning points. We watched in anticipation as our hopes were dashed when the football struck the goalpost dead-center and fell back towards the field. The Fighting Illini lost 34-31 in overtime. Despite the loss, I was very happy that the game was not a blowout and was able to spend time with my wife and friends in Champaign.
Some of you may not know that I grew up not far from Champaign when I was younger. I spend my childhood and pre-teen years in a little town called Tolono. You know, your typical midwestern small town.
I’m happy to say I made some good friends while I was there. Two really good friends in particular. Unfortunately, as with many of us we grow up, move away, and grow apart. Now in my forties (ugh), I find myself nostalgic from time to time. I wonder what happened to those childhood friends of mine…my classmates from long ago. I ask myself, “I’d just love to know what they are up to right now. Are they still alive? What did they do with their lives? Are they living near me right under my nose?”
Then one day, I decide to reach out and investigate. Low and behold, thanks to social media (Facebook in particular), I was actually to track down my childhood friends. Needlesstosay, I was a little astonished and emotional. After all these years, I finally was able to pique my curiosity.
And then came the next hurdle: communication.
A whole host of thoughts and emotions ran through me. “Will they remember me? What if they don’t? Would they want to reconnect after all these years? What are they like?” Then, of course, the initial wave of insecurity and self-doubt hits. “What would they think of me and my accomplishments?” Ugh.
I bit the bullet and sent out friend requests to them both…and prayed for the best. A few days later, my requests were approved…followed by positive and heartwarming responses. They had been curious as well and were happy to reconnect after all this time. God willing, at some point we’d get an opportunity to meet up face-to-face and catch up on old times.
Fast-Forward to Saturday.
I had the tickets and travel arrangements for the football game all set. And then I had a thought. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I dropped my friend Kent a Facebook message to see if he would be available to meet before the game. To my surprise and delight, he said that he (and his family) would love to meet. So, thanks to a suggestion from my friends, we altered our travel arrangements to meet up at Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan for lunch. By the way, highly recommend Garcia’s (it’s a U of I tradition in my book).
And then my dream can true. It was hard to believe but it had been over THIRTY years since I last remember seeing and talking with Kent. To me, this was the best part of the whole journey to Champaign that day. It was a bit euphoric to reconnect with him after all this time. And yet, as my friend Amy said, “it was like hardly anytime has passed between you two”.
I was amazed how easily it was to talk to one another after so long. Amazed at how many things we still have in common (like Star Wars, Chicago Cubs, pizza, corgis, etc.).
We had a great lunch and I was really glad that not only was I able to meet him and his family but also have him meet my wife. I’m so looking forward to the next opportunity we get to hang out. Thanks so much, buddy!
Well, that’s about it. It was an incredible experience and I will cherish it dearly.
P.S. Jeff, don’t think I haven’t forgotten about you. A trip up north to see you, your family, and your sister is still on my radar. 🙂