By Bruce Stambaugh
I contemplated the circuitous route of just how I happened to be sitting beneath a party canopy in this Ontario, Canada couple’s backyard. It’s a long but enjoyable story.
It all started when my wife was 14-years-old. Of course, Neva wasn’t my wife then. We married young, but not that young.
Neva accompanied her youth group to a church conference in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1964. With hundreds of teenagers from around the U.S. and Canada attending, with the teens assigned to sleep in homes of local folks.
That’s where Neva met Ruth. Ruth’s family hosted Neva. Neva and Ruth connected right away, and they kept in touch. Seven years later, Ruth and her husband, Ken, attended our wedding in northeast Ohio.
They returned to Ontario. We set up shop here. We all began our careers and started families. We visited Ken and Ruth once when our daughter was just two. Now her youngest child is five. Time melts away, doesn’t it?
With the internet, texting, email, and online chatting science fiction, correspondence via regular mail diminished over time. Life got in the way of our long distance friendship.
About 20 years ago, that unexpectedly changed. Neva saw an advertisement for a tour. She called the toll-free number and guess who answered? Ruth.
Their personal connection was restored. Ken and Ruth have visited us here in Holmes Co., and we’ve returned to their place in Kitchener. We even vacationed together once. Sometimes we meet in between.
When Ruth learned that Neva and I had become snowbirds to Florida’s Amelia Island, she mentioned that their across the street neighbors also wintered there. That’s where our life circle began to expand.
Ruth exchanged contact numbers with their neighbors and us, and the result was pure magic. In February 2014, we arranged to meet Don and Gail at a coffee shop in Fernandina Beach, the island’s only town.
Before the first sip of coffee, the four of us were yacking away as if we had been lifetime friends. Gail was born in England and still has that lovely disarming accent that is as genuine and gentle as she is. Don was from Bermuda and carries that notorious island swagger with him still, even though he’s been a Canadian now for years.
We chattered like teenagers at a soda shop. It didn’t take long to discover that both Don and I had been volunteer firefighters. As if that wasn’t enough to cement our friendship, photography and nature were also common hobbies.
Having been to Bermuda a couple of times ourselves, we knew many of the locales they mentioned. Don shared stories from his childhood until the present.
Gail and Neva got along famously, too. While Don and I were off shooting too many photos, our wives were happy just to shop, browse thrift stores, or sit and share. They clicked like childhood friends.
A carpenter by trade, Don was intrigued to learn that the wood industry was king in our county. Over the next month, we would take day trips together, go out to eat, or just play dominoes. That pattern repeated last winter.
That brings me back to sitting under the canopy. We surprised both Don and Gail by crashing her surprise birthday party.
For that little coup, you can blame Ken and Ruth. That’s what lifelong friends do for one another. They help create other equally robust friendships.
That’s the thing about friendship circles. They enrich your life.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
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