How far from home?

Just as the metaphorical river is never the same after the water rushes past, you really can’t go home again.

Home, for me, is my mom’s house, a place I spent my teenage years in jaunty development that relied too much on trial and error.

Since I am no longer that awkward teenager, 14 McQuade Drive is no longer the same place for me.

Once, this place was where I launched my career and my own family (albeit on a circuitous route); now, it is where I return to take measure of how far I have come and if it is something my younger self would have aspired to.

Standing in the driveway with me, throwing this shift in time into sharp relief, was my best friend, Frank Lozanski.

We see each other, on average, about once every five years. He saw my children grow while I, in turn, had the pleasure of seeing his children take his athleticism and their mother’s grace, and make it their own.

Thirty years ago, we stood in this same driveway and discussed our futures. I was going to be a magazine writer and he was going to be a military jet pilot.

I have since discovered that being an editor in a northern town is much more fun and he discovered that a quirky medical condition would not allow him to be a pilot.

Instead, Frank became a tank commander and I’m glad, because he is not a loner like many pilots … he is a leader. In a tank regiment, I am sure he was able to guide many young soldiers to a level of self-confidence and ability to see them through any of life’s challenges.

At his advanced age (umm, our advanced age), he was humping his kit and his rifle on patrol in Afghanistan so that the troops could tell him exactly what they think of the equipment his department purchases for them.

Did I know, 30 years ago, that he would be examining blood splatter in a tank’s turret to help design a better shield? Did Frank know that I would be happiest working in a small community instead of working in a large office tower?

Of course not. We only knew the direction each of us faced and we would trust that the obstacles in our way would only divert our paths slightly.

And, every five years or so, we would sit on his porch or stand in my mom’s driveway and measure each other in all of the things that are important.

Did either of us start smoking? No. Are our children happy and healthy? Thankfully, yes. Do we have good, strong, smart women by our sides? Oh yes. Are we challenged and excited by our jobs? You bet. Can we still laugh at ourselves and are we still willing to help a stranger?

Hmm, this is where the differences become poignant. I’ve put quarters in parking meters for strangers and I’ve passed along research to other writers, but Frank has stood in the middle of the road, in war-torn Kandahar City, securing the scene of an IED detonation where a sniper’s bullet could reach him from a kilometre away. Or a suicide bomber could walk within 20 metres of him … as they are wont to do.

I think the moment in our conversation when I realized we had led completely different lives is when he referred to a bomb as “victim-operated”.

“Land mine,” he had to tell me.

Same planet, different world.

One day, however, the arc of our lives will intersect once again in retirement. Frank has written some excellent screenplays and, with his intimate knowledge of modern warfare, he will be a hot Hollywood commodity for sure.

As for me, well, it is easier to see someone else’s future … isn’t it?

But I know Frank will be there to measure me and ensure I won’t disappoint my 17-year-old self who once stood in his mom’s driveway.

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