“The band, Elwood, the band!”
“The band? The band. The band!”
It was the last day of my senior year of high school. Since seniors finished school a week earlier than everyone else, my final project in auto shop had to be evaulated. My partner and I had done a partial rebuild of a Vega engine. Mr. P. came over with his handtruck and other hardware for starting engines. He hooked up the jumper cables and tried to start it. Nothing, it was turning over, but never firing. But he kept trying until, finally, a gout of flame jumped several feet out of the carburetor towards the ceiling. Mr. P. jumped back (as we all did), recomposed himself, realigned his ridiculous comb-over, quietly unhooked the jumper cables, said “you pass” without making eye contact and walked away. I’m sure my partner was able to get the engine going in the next week, since he actually knew what he was doing.
I don’t remember much else about the day, but after the last bell, walked out the front doors right to my father’s pickup, who was waiting for me. Everything had been packed the night before. We immediately started driving south. I wanted to be as far away from there as I could. I wanted a clean break. By the time the graduation ceremony rolled around I was in Los Angeles; the cap and gown in my closet would never be worn, and I would have no further contact with anyone from high school, except…
A few weeks later, I drove to Portland and met up with Lance and Chris to play Dungeons and Dragons. We started playing D&D several years earlier and had played regularily ever since, and with only a short break for my trip and time for Lance to move to Portland, we resumed where right where we left off and kept on for 12 more years. But then big changes in all of our lives brought it to and end and all those distractions caused us all to forget.
I didn’t really think of the importance of those two friends or of Dungeons and Dragons for many years. When you are young you don’t think about such things. But when a chance occurrence 20 years later made me think of Dungeons and Dragons, I tried to get back in contact.
I located Chris in 2019 and when the pandemic started the next year we started playing online, with his sister and kids joining in.
All through this I struggled to find Lance, every phone number I found did not work, the addresses were all out of date. But early this year my searching turned up a new address, so as I had done with every other address I found, I sent a letter. In the midst of a Father’s day get-together my phone rang. Some random 503 number, probably junk. But instead, a vaguely familiar voice asked for me by name. It was Lance! It is hard to express how happy I was.
So these two were the only friends from my childhood who I stayed in contact with, and I credit that to Dungeons and Dragons. At the time, I think we all just thought of it as a game, something to spend our Saturday afternoon doing to avoid homework. But now I see it was the glue that kept us getting together on a regular basis for all those years, and it helped us build a relationship that was deep enough that after a 20 year hiatus, we were able to just pick up where we left off.
Mike Shea wrote a touching article entitled Playing D&D Can Save Your Life which all of us middle aged men should read. And then pick up the phone and call that old friend you lost touch with. Get together regularly, and maybe an ongoing game would be just the thing to ensure you keep it up. It may save your life.