I began a friendship in grade school, his name was Occa Onally, a most unusual name compared to others, but children do not dwell on such trivial matters such as names and the color of skin, they talk and play like the children they are, they put on no airs, If only children ran the world!!! Occa and I soon became best friends. In the dark and cold of winter we build models together, Occa possessed a fascination for airplanes. Especially the older ones of the 1920’s, ones like the Red Baron flew. He was always the great Baron because the Baron never lost, he was my friend and I understood his imagination. I always played the poor pilot that was shot to smithereens. We read our 10 cent comic books, traded baseball cards, boy stuff you know! Summertime was playing basketball, baseball, tetherball, walking, just hanging out at the local mom and pop store drinking a bottle of soda pop with other neighborhood children, riding bicycles, anything to occupy our time. The simple pleasures never an idle moment, always on the move looking for childhood adventures anywhere we could imagine it, the type of adventures only children can create. Occa and I both get paper routes at the age of 12, another common interest or rather a way of making money, since we must buy anything other than our necessities. I believe it to be more, we had adventuresome spirits we actively played out in keeping busy, thus always inflaming our imaginations. We were more alike than different, closer than brothers.
We become masters at making a buck. During delivery of our afternoon newspapers we kept one eye out for soda bottles. The overly sized baskets made us a fortune over the years. Wow! wee! We would make a buck. Don’t laugh, that was enough for an afternoon movie at the Grand Theatre.
We rode our bikes on the country roads close to town; however our favorite route to look for bottles was not the most productive because Occa always wanted to ride north of town to see the Air Force Base. We sat for hours, not looking for soda pop bottles but guess what, yep! you guessed it. Gee whiz, those jet fighter planes were beautiful to Occa. I certainly found them entertaining but I rode with him on this side of town because he was my best friend and he loved to watch them fighter jets. I want money to go to a movie and he wants to indulge in his dreams. Friendship sure takes precedence over a dollar. Well the route began producing dough, as we called it. Too many Gangster movies at the Grand I reckon! The Air Force M. P.’s was saving bottles for us, so never say your dreams don’t pay off. Occa’s infatuation with airplanes paid for many movies and bought popcorn and drinks. Golly! those were the good old days. He had his mind made up as a young man he was joining the Air Force.
While I loved to read Occa was never fond of studying. He was born with a fantastic memory. I heard a teacher say that he had a photographic memory. I asked what that meant, “the ability to remember everything after seeing or hearing it one time”. That explains why he’s so smart. Where I made average grades, Occa breezed right through school. He always persuaded me to tell him a brief summary of all the books I read. He had me believing I was a good story teller; however that sly fox pup was destined for glory, I just knew it! Even if Occa never read his homework, he made better grades than me. We always arrived at school early and met in the cafeteria for a slug of milk and to study our lessons, for me I could never study enough but Occa simply listened to me read out loud and always received better grades than I did.
We remained close friends all through our school years. After graduation Occa goes on to follow his dream. He enrolled in classes during high school that would better prepare him for the military. The Air Force base recruited many fine men and gave our high school students help to better prepare them for the jump!!!
While Occa is actively pursuing his dream, I’m working in a factory making money to pay for my car, dates and of course I still love my movies. I never possessed the insight or dreams of knowing what I was destined to do. I grow jealous of Occa and I’m sure it was evident in our correspondence over the years. I marry and raise children, the Norman Rockwell life. Since I never dreamed about a career I was proud as Occa continued with the Air Force and received his wings.
I was present as he received his coveted wings. After the ceremony we hug and briefly talk. He invites me back to the party that was being thrown later. I decline saying I did not wish to intrude, he has new friends and I would feel out of place, he completely understood and after all he said, “we, will always be best friends no matter what, right”. I answer “absolutely and assure him that the tone he possibly interpreted in my letters was not my true ones”. Occa answered, “I never once questioned our being the best of friends”. We share brotherly bear hugs and slap one another playfully on the back. I get on with my life which I began to love as a husband and father.
Occa and I lost touch with each other. I would see his mother and father on occasions and discuss Occa. He was stationed many different places around the world. He was flying high all over the planet serving his country and doing what he loved. We never saw each other after he earned his wings. We simply were busy going in different directions. Our mail correspondence simply seized we had nothing in common anymore.
I am now 44 years, old I get a phone call from Occa’s sister. Occa died not in a plane crash but in a military helicopter crash as he was headed home from serving 20 years as a fighter pilot. Ironic as he flew thousands of times in his life. Many months after the military funeral I’m visiting Occa’s parents, when Occa retired from duty he shipped all his belongings back to their house. Only recently they began the painful task of sorting through his possessions and they came across a canvas bag of hand written notes, letters, a diary and several notebooks of his adventures around the globe. A letter addressed to me was found inside. His wish was that bag of hand written biography of should go to me. He never forgot my love of reading.
Many more years have passed and my life has slowed down. I work on his biography and never grow tired of reading his scribbled notes. His zest for life and living it to the maximum is an inspirational story of achievement. He dreamed his life as a young boy and his dreams became reality. I’m going to retire someday, learn about computers and writing and such that have blown by me at the speed of a jet fighter plane.
I never had a childhood hero. Occa’s fittingly was Chuck Yeager. I now have a role model a real life hero. I had imagination maybe more than the average child but I never had the right stuff that dreams are made off and never possessed the determination, the all-out- stick- to- it-ness that would make me excel in anything. Occa has given me that in my old age and as you are reading this simple story about best friend you now know what my late blooming quest is.
I WISH TO TELL STORIES OF SIMPLE, PLEASUREFUL, FUNLOVING NATURE. THAT HAS BECOME MY DRIVE, MY DETERMINATION, MY DREAM, TO LIVE MY LIFE TO ITS FULLEST. I NEVER HAD THE DESIRE OR INTELLIGENCE THAT MY GOOD FRIEND HAD. YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN AND DAG NAP IT I’M GOING TO TEST THAT THEORY PERSONALLY.I WROTE A SILLY POST THAT WAS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH TITLED “THE CREATING OF GLENVIEW”. THAT POST WAS EYE OPENING, FUNNY, YET SAD TO WRITE, TO THINK THAT A MAN OF MY AGE WAS AS IGNORANT ABOUT SUCH MANDATORY MODERN CONVENIENCES OF THE MODERN ERA. I AM STILL A SIMPLE BOY IN AN OLD MAN’S BODY BUT MY IMAGINATION IS BETTER THAN EVER AND I AM ATTEMPTING TO WRITE, SO WATCH OUT NOW AND YOU ALL COME BACK NOW YA-HEAR!