Imagine, if you will. I’m sitting here in the screened-in porch, in an old white wicker chair with muted red cushions in a Native American pattern. The porch is octagon-shaped, and sits at the edge of the lake. Silhouettes of pine tree branches are in view, along with distant hills covered with trees and a few old stick and log boathouses that sit right on the lake. You can’t build them like that anymore, it’s not permitted.

Typing With Dog

My typing this morning is labored, with my iPad pushed out on to the edge of my knees and my hands reaching over the small gray dog resting on my lap. His name is Chewy, and he’s insistent on staying close to me this morning, probably because of the cold air out here. His brother Weasley is staring up at me with giant brown eyes, wondering why he’s not in my lap, too, but that simply isn’t possible while I’m typing. 

My grandmother used to say, “This is a red letter day,” but for me, this was a red letter week, one of the most special weeks of my life.

Breaking Ground

I grew up at 5311 Indiana Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a fairly new middle class housing development called Woodhurst. New homes were going up all around us, and one day I saw a boy playing in the dirt that had been excavated for a new home. He was there visiting with his parents, so I rode up on my blue Stingray bike with the banana seat, did a couple wheelies to show off, then introduced myself. “I’m Rick, what’s your name?” His name was Stu.

Another Brother

Stu was one grade behind me but very close in age, and he moved in just a few months later. His dad had been killed in a car accident, and his mom had remarried a local allergist, so Stu was my new neighbor. He not only became my best friend, he became another son to my parents. Because he was Jewish, he would come over on Christmas morning to marvel at all the gifts, so there were always gifts under the tree for him. And every morning before we walked to school, he would drop in for breakfast because we served bacon, something he could not get in his own house.

Never Skipping a Beat

Stu and I were inseparable all through elementary school. He went on vacations with us, went to the lake with us, and was truly another brother. Though my folks moved out of the neighborhood, and though we stopped spending as much time together because we had different schools and different sets of friends, we always talked and stayed in touch, which we’ve now been doing for several decades. When I visit my hometown, which I moved away from at age 17, I always stay at his house, and it’s like we never skipped a beat. We always have plenty to talk about. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other very often.

A New Mission

Motivated by the recent passing of my mother, and the recent passing of a couple of good friends, I’ve made it my mission to reconnect more with people I want to spend more time with. Having our new lake place is a natural reason to invite guests, and this morning I’m up early to get this out so I can see Stu off after a few days together. 

Old friends are like old sweaters. They are something you want to keep forever no matter how old they get, they become even more special over time, and they make you feel even warmer when you’re close to them. 

Our five days together were just spectacular, and it was so important to me that I took the last half of the week off. I can work anytime, but I can’t see old friends all that often.

Though parting will be sad, there is simply no greater gift than spending time with those you truly love.

Memories Require a Plan

Quality of life does not just happen. Rarely are there random circumstances where memories are created. We have to work to make memories. Finding ways to get together with old, distant friends isn’t easy for either person, yet when we get the call or e-mail that they have moved on, we usually wish we had made more effort to talk or to see them in person. 

No excuse is good enough to prevent you from spending time with old friends.

I look back on the ones who have graduated from life and wish I had made more effort, spent more time, and been less busy. Over the years, even at young ages, so many have disappeared suddenly, unexpectedly. 

There is no time like now.

  • Who comes to mind that you really crave time with? 
  • Who do you really want to see, no matter how far away they may be?
  • What are the roadblocks preventing you from getting together?
  • Who do you need to pick up the phone and burn time with today, talking for no reason, no agenda, just to hear their voice and connect?
  • If your life were to end one month from today, who is on the list of people you’d want to see before you go?

An old friend I know called one time and said that he had terminal cancer, that he had six months, and his plan was to spend all his money visiting friends until he could travel no more. He said those were the most rewarding months of his entire life. 

Why wait?

Eric Rhoads

PS: According to statistics, we appear to be living in one of the most prosperous times in the history of our country. We all know good economies don’t last. It may or may not be impacting you in a positive way yet, but when we have opportunities, we need to grab them because we don’t know how things will look next year at this time or what our health will be like. I’m reminded of a woman who came to my Fall Color Week event each of the last four years and suddenly passed away just after the event this past year. Investing in rich memories for your life, rewarding yourself with some experiences, is something you’ll never regret. Some of the best friends I’ve made in my life have come as a result of our annual Fine Art Trip, which is a behind- the-scenes trip to view and experience art. This year we celebrate year 10 with a visit to the land of Van Gogh, Cezanne, and others. Provence in the South of France is most beautiful in the fall. This might be a good year to join us. You can learn more here.

We had a mad rush on seats last week for our Figurative Art Convention and now there are only 135 seats left, which will go fast between now and November. If you’ve dreamed of learning the figure or the portrait, this event is worth considering. It’s in Williamsburg, Virginia, this year, our one and only time there.