Thursday, September 10, 2009

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same (Pomona, NY)

There have been two or three occasions on this trip where I've arrived at someone's house who hasn't seen me for 20 or 30 years and the first thing they say is, "Wow, you look so much like your father." I've seen Steve Waite a number of times over the past few years, but as my ferry pulled up to the dock in Haverstraw, NY and I saw him waiting to greet me I thought the exact same thing. Wow, he looks a lot like his father.

If the final verdict is that Steve and I look a lot like our fathers, we are happy to accept that compliment. Even a higher compliment would be to say that we are like our fathers. Two more honorable, friendly and loving people you couldn't find, even if you had a month of Sundays to look.

My family and the Waites lived across the street from each other in West Hebron from 1970 to 1983. During those 13 years a friendship was forged that has lasted the 26 years since. I was alive for 10 of those years, which meant that Dick and Margaret were surrogate parents to me, and their four kids - Steve, Heidi, Andrea and Rick - felt like my older siblings. At one time or another all of them babysat for Aaron and me. Our houses were like annexes of each another. There was a complete open door policy. Come in and come out whenever you please.

I stayed with Dick and Margaret in that same house last Sunday night before the first day of this walk. Steve and his brother and sisters all have familes and are spread out around the Northeast. So whenever I am taking one of my cross country odysseys I always try to route myself through their locations. In 1998 I watched Mark McGwire break Roger Maris' home run record with Rick out near Rochester. In 2003 I celebrated my 30th birthday with Andrea in Vermont and then with Heidi that same evening in Boston. On those two trips I hadn't been able to swing by and see Steve. This time we were both in the right place at the right time.

Steve lives in Plattsburg, NY but his job is in Pearl River, 280 miles south of Plattsburg on the western side of the Hudson River. He does a weekly commute, Sunday night through Friday afternoon. I had been walking down the eastern side of the Hudson and by Thursday afternoon I was as far down as Ossining, just across the river from Steve. A quick ferry ride is all it took to land in same spot.

Steve drove me down to Pearl River to see the huge Wyeth plant where he works. Then we stopped into a restaurant in Nanuet for some seriously good pizza. We did quite a number a large pepperoni and sausage pie, with me leading the battle charge, and then we retired to his weekday residence - a one bedroom with wood floors that has everything a guy needs to get him through a work week. A few staples in the fridge. A comfortable bed. A sofa, a reclining chair and a flat screen TV to set in front of them.

I kicked back on the recliner and Steve dropped down on the couch and we turned on the Steelers/Titans game which was opening the 2009 NFL season. As we were both spread out on the furniture in front of the football game, I remembered a family photograph from January 1973, just months before I was born. In it my father and Dick Waite are on adjoining couches, napping in front of the television while the Dolphins and Redskins played Super Bowl VII. There were two friends, comfortable in each other's presence ... and sleeping through the history of the Dolphins undeafted season being engraved in the history books.

There wasn't as much history at stake in the Steelers/Titans game, but Steve and I would soon be asleep. We are both creatures of habit, and when 10pm came around it was bedtime. It's nice to know that 36 years can pass between one photo and another, but certain things stay the same. Just like our fathers, we will always remain friends. That's a comparison we are happy to live up to.