May 13, 2024 at 2:58 p.m.

Cherish the time spent with old friends


By James Fulks III

God, karma, fate, whatever.

It’s a devilishly nasty business for whomever is responsible.

On Tuesday, April 30, the blessing of a social media link provided me with some rather shocking yet urgent news.

An old U.S. Navy radar air traffic controller colleague, ironically one I had just recently found and reconnected with, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

We hadn’t physically seen each other since the day we parted ways in Philadelphia in July 1987.

Thankfully, I was able to track him down around Christmas time last year and send him a small token of my appreciation of our friendship that began 40 years ago.

The sad news came with one bright revelation. Two more of our former crew members were going to be visiting him May 1 and 2.

Getting more than two of us to be in the same place at the same time is akin to herding cats, so I decided to drop everything and dash off in a hurry on the morning of May 1 to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to see all three, including Dave.

I arrived a bit after 9 a.m., and for about three hours that day all of us were young again.

We all shared memories and recalled our years at sea on a massive U.S. Navy aircraft carrier together.

Dave was in good spirits, but having had friends in the past with the same diagnosis, I could sense that he was fading away.

A bit after noon, the other two who met us there all had their lives to return to, one to Atlanta via Cleveland and one to the northwestern suburbs of the greater Chicagoland metro area.

We said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information and took a few photos before I pointed the hood of the car back southward to Indiana.

I knew it would be the last time I would ever see Dave.

I honestly thought he had a few weeks.

A mere two days passed, and as I arose on a Sunday, the message came.

Dave was gone, peacefully, surrounded by his family at home — the home I had just visited him in three days earlier.

I certainly had a few items planned for that Thursday, but now using that oh-so-clear 20/20 hindsight, I am so glad I chose the drive to Michigan that day.

Thursday through Sunday is the twinkle of an eye, time-wise, but those three hours in Dave’s living room are a treasure that is priceless beyond any amount of compensation.

Deposits into our memory bank are far exceeding in value than any deposit we will ever make in a financial institution. I found that point to be crystal clear on a beautiful sunny Michigan day in May.

Fair winds and following seas, Dave.

It was an honor to know you, serve our country together and call you friend.

PORTLAND WEATHER

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