Old Friends

I’d been called for jury duty, it was hurry up and wait;
While they tried to pick the twelve who’d decide some poor guy’s fate.
We all compared our numbers as we stood there in the hall,
Each one of us in secret hoped we wouldn’t get the call.

I had spent my boyhood here, and so many knew my name,
For twenty years I’d been away, and no one looked the same.
Two fellows came to say how they often talked of me,
How they told their kids and grandkids things that happened to us three.

We talked about coon hunting and about whose dog was best,
About one Halloween and the things we’d done in jest.
They asked about my kids, about their whats and then their wheres;
With words I carefully phrased, I also asked them about theirs.

Then we talked about our lives and what we each had done.
We promised to meet often, for reminiscing had been fun.
And then the judge dismissed all the ones he didn’t need;
My two friends had been chosen and I wished them both godspeed.

As I walked out of the courthouse, I thought of years that I’d been gone,
While my friends had stayed behind, their local memories carried on.
All the talk about old times, had caused my heart to stir;
But I didn’t have a clue of just who those two guys were.

I’ve always been the kind of person that hates to admit that I don’t know someone who apparently knows me. I left home at seventeen to go to college, and then after graduating, went right into the Air Force. I had known everyone in the small community where I went to school but after being away for twenty-five years, a lot of things had changed.

Life went on for my friends who remained here and their memories were reinforced by constant contact with old friends. I’ve been back for twenty years now and I still haven’t caught up. At first it irritated Ruth when I would stop on the street and talk to people about old times and not introduce her. Now she understands that I probably don’t have a clue who I’m talking to.

Old Friends is about just such an incident. After narrowly escaping jury duty, I was able to join Ruth on a trip to visit our middle son Jon and his family. That night I was telling about my clueless encounter when Jon suggested that I write a poem about the experience, so here it is.