I am 3 days removed from a trip that I will remember forever. A trip I should have taken much sooner. A trip back to my hometown of Fresno California.
I left Fresno California in August of 1979, leaving behind friends and people I held close to my heart. At the time, I hated leaving and didn't understand it. My departure from Fresno was without fanfare. I was there one day and the next day I was gone. My Mom was getting us ( my brother and I) away from my fathers alcoholic madness, and providing us a much safer and stable place to grow up. Even though my parents had been divorced for 5 years at that time. The toll of alcoholic behavior was taking its toll on all of us. It was something that had to be done...but in the mind of a just turned 15 year old...it made no sense. I was losing my best friend Jeff, My Father, and a very small group of people that I cared a lot about.
Years passed and my best friend Jeff visited me once. My Father came back to visit a couple of times and in a answer to my prayers, quit drinking. I found friendships, none that replaced the ones I had as a child. Found a girlfriend that I dated for 2 years and had my heart broken, just like all high school kids! Had a good job, and a car. Life was back on track. I was recovering, but I had holes in my life that needed to be filled.
I spent many of my childhood and teen years playing the "family hero". Its when you act like you are a grown up and try to bring calm to situations by being the stable one. You may be acting grown up and in control, but in reality, you are really just a scared kid trying to control life. As we all learn, life is uncontrollable.
My brother and I decided to visit California in the summer of 1986. It was a great trip, we had lots of fun. But, I was more interested in connecting with my father. I made very little attempt to look up my old friends. I found out much about my father, but I didn't see any of my peer group. It would be 20 years until I would return.
About 3 months ago I received a email from my best pals wife Yvette asking if there was anyway I could come out for a surprise visit. It was Jeffs 45th birthday and it was going to be a surprise . After 20 plus years of missing my old neighborhood pals, my best friend , and also a person that I kept in close contact through phone calls and letters and emails, I jumped at the chance to come back.
In my mind, this trip would be one of healing. A chance to see people that played a role in my early life. People that saw me when I didn't have a care in the world, and embraced its simplicity. People that wondered what happened to me after all of these years. But mainly a chance to catch up with my old pal Jeff, and my longtime corresponding friend Kristy.
Its always a little scary going back home after 20 years. Things change and people change. I hoped that I would leave with a good taste in my mouth, and I was not disappointed. My time with Jeff and his wife went by like a blink. I surprised him the morning after I landed, by showing up at a house where he was going to pick up another childhood pal of mine ( Jeffrey Y.) for a Oakland A's game. I walked out..and he looked right at me and started walking by me....then he stopped and looked stunned! It was great! It took no time and we were all carrying on like we were back in the old hood! In addition to the A's game...we had a barbq at his old house with more of the old gang back together to spend time talking and laughing. I got a chance to spend some time with David A, who played a big part in my early development as a spiritual person. It felt great to be back. I felt home. After the BBQ. It was off to Big Sur. Jeff,Yvette and myself went horseback riding. Yep, something totally new for me. we rode for about 2.5 hours and I didn't even get sore! I loved the feeling of riding through rivers, giant sequoias and the beach side. Even though I wore a helmet and looked like a geek....it was something I will never forget. The next day...we drove to Jametown and Columbia. Both towns are old west mining towns. Lots of little shops...very peaceful. I felt honored to share the time with Jeff and his wife, in a spot that held a special place for them.
I spent a fair amount of time with Kristy. We had a great time hanging out. One thing you should know about her, she likes to surprise people. She got me good this time. I thought I was going to dinner with my friend David. We were going to spend some time catching up. As I walked into the restaurant, I saw Kristy. Then I saw several friends from the past. We are talking from my elementary school past! Of course all of them commented on how I not changed a bit. ( I think they were referring to the fact I hadn't grown a inch since 6th grade!). We all laughed as we shared stories of growing up and gave little updates on what our life is now. It was a great surprise, and its one of the things that I like the most about Kristy. She knows how to get me!!!!!! :-)
I was able to spend time looking at landmarks from my childhood past. The town is much larger now. The old neighborhood is smaller, a freeway has cut away some of the memories. The houses look a little more beat up. But its my neighborhood. At one point, I was standing in my best friends garage....looked down the street and visualized my brother and I walking to school. I could see it. I looked to my left and imagined the basketball hoop that I shot baskets at. Remembering how hard I wanted to catch a girl's eye with my skill. Those memories are crystal clear. It made me feel very good.
I spent time with my Father and his Wife. Even though I didn't spend all my time with them, the time spent was important. Like the previous trip 20 years ago. This was a trip of learning. I was able to break through some barriers and extend forgiveness to my Dads wife. This was very hard for me to get to this point. But important.
Many other things occurred on this trip that were very important, but are hard to put into words. They all added up to a experience that I will never forget.
It wont be 20 years again.
Ps.....pictures to follow soon