Foreword As it turns out, I never mailed this letter. I did not know where you were, and didn’t know where to send it. It seems even your parents have moved on, so here this letter has sat. I have no illusions that you will someday happen upon this letter here, so I’m not exactly sure what my motivation is in placing it here. For that matter, I have no illusions that many people at all will happen upon this letter here. Maybe this is a kind of modern day message in a bottle cast into the sea. Maybe, just maybe, someone will find this here and read about a guy who wishes he could find his old friend – and say thanks.
JK – 10/11/2001
Tuesday, June 6, 2000 (9:32 pm)
I begin to write this letter unsure of my intent to mail it. As you may or may not recall, mine is a contemplative soul; and the last few days I have been thinking about those who have had an influence on my life. In the event that whimsy leads to this letter being sent, please don’t be scarred off by the what comes next (despite what may appear otherwise, this is not a “coming out of the closet, lost love of my life” kind of letter – “Not that there is anything wrong with that” – Jerry Seinfeld ).
I am unsure of my willingness to send this letter because it expresses something that is not typically shared between male friends, particularly those that have not spoken in what must be seven years. We give up power over ourselves when we share from within, and this is disconcerting; even to the most self assured of us – and I will never be counted among the most self-assured. Furthermore, I’m not sure that this would ever get to you, even if I wanted to send it to you. On the occasions that I run into common acquaintances from the past, one of the great mysteries that is discussed is: “what happened to Ben.” Last rumor had it that you were married with child in Maine. In any case, I figure a good start would be to try your parent’s old address in Dunedin. Just the same, my journey down memory lane (so to speak) has lead to a powerful desire to share something that perhaps was never communicated in the past. In part, this is because it was hard to realize until later in life – and by then it was too late (perhaps). Often we have little trouble giving others negative feed back. We argue. We criticize. We hold grudges. But how often do we say to others: “hey, you were appreciated, thanks.”
I’ve no idea who you are today, much less where. I don’t mean this as condemnation, I just thought I would state what should be obvious. Much can happen in seven years, and those events shape the people we become. Which gets me to why I have written this letter. With the perspective that I have gained in the last several years, I have come to realize that my years in Gainesville, particularly the first two – had more influence on my life thus far than any others. I remember two states of being in those first two years at UF: camaraderie and a sense of belonging among my friends; solitude and despair when on my own. When on my own, I obsessed over the notion that I had let the “love of my life” get away. I was sure that I would find no one better, and the one I wanted was forever out of reach. This ultimately turned out to be untrue, but how was I to know then? What kept me going was my friends. You, Steve, and yes even Shad; helped me in ways and to an extent that I will never be able to express. In those two years you were a friend who’s importance had not then, nor has since, been eclipsed by any other (not including my wife). Simply put, you listened. Although it may not have seemed it at the time, your occasional reassurances meant a lot to me. I can remember one specific example that stands out. I remember walking together to a late night session of racquetball, and once again bemoaning my plight, which surely must have gotten old after awhile. But, none the less, you came through. I remember you saying that you thought we (Cheryl and I) would end up together, and that things had a way of working out. While I was not ready to believe Cheryl and I would end up together, your reassurance meant a great deal. At a time when I was love sick and unsure of my academic ability, I felt like someone believed in my potential, someone who’s opinion I respected.
I’ve no idea what you thought of me then, or what you think of me now. In school, I don’t think we were always the best of examples for each other. There are things I remember doing and saying that I am, quite frankly, ashamed of. However, from my perspective, you were the best of friends. This leads me to my regrets. I regret that I was selfish; that I received more than I gave. I regret that I was not there to return the favor in times that it may have been needed. I regret that I was less than honest on occasion with all of you. In short, I regret that I was not as good a friend in return. It is my hope that you thought of me as a friend; but reflecting on my actions and behavior back then I can not be sure, and I am truly sorry.
While I’m not sure I’ll send this, it won’t surprise me if it does end up in the mail. The last several years have added to my personality a bit of irreverence to some societal norms. So what the heck?
At this point, I feel it necessary to add the obligatory: “so much has happened since we last spoke.” It truly has. Cheryl and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary this year. We have a wonderful daughter, Beth, who will be three in July. We bought our first house two years ago. My sister Christy graduated from Medical school 8th (or somewhere around there) in her class, and has accepted a pediatric residency. She is now married to one of her classmates, who is a resident at the same hospital in neurosurgery. My youngest sister Lisa graduated from the nursing program at UF, and is waiting to take her board exams to become an RN. Steve is married, and his daughter Madelynn will be one in August.
Later this year it will be 10 years since my break-through evening with Cheryl after Gator Growl. Do you remember that night? That night has been just as important to me as any anniversary or birthday. Cheryl and I began our journey together that night. Cheryl and I talked until about 4am. We talked about whether I felt the same as I did in High School about her, and whether my still strong feelings were requited. Afterward, I remember waking you up to tell you all about it, and talking about it with you until almost sunrise the next morning. Among other things, I remember you put on a big grin and said, “I told you so.” It was one of the most important nights of my life, and I remember clearly sharing the details with my best friend. Everyday, since that day, has been a celebration – and I owe it partially to you.
Your ever grateful friend,