By Lorry Myers
My father grew up in a neighborhood north of the railroad tracks. Down the street lived Gerald Cox and his brother, Tommy, whose mother was known to be a good cook. The Cox boys convinced my father, Walter, to help them sell their mother’s hamburgers door to door.
That’s how their friendship began.
As kids, they’d hike to Lake Dutcher and spend the day fishing, or roam the neighborhood, playing ball until the street lights flickered. It was one of those hot summer days that Jerry and his ornery brother, Tommy, nicknamed my father, “Amy”, after a bratty girl that lived on the corner.
That nickname would last a lifetime.
Amy and Jerry and Tommy grew up playing together and rooting for each other in school sports, and after graduation, they all took local jobs in their hometown. Each one started a family, worked hard and made time for a little fishing on the weekend.
Those friends loved to fish.
Growing up, I would run into one or the other Mr. Cox and they always had a fish tale to tell, encouraging me to run home and repeat their fish story to my dad. Those friends would cast their lines in rivers and streams and secret farm ponds that no one would ever speak about. They fished from boats and docks and shores and banks and islands long since lost in the current. They packed coolers and minnow buckets and disgusting cups filled with wiggling things. These grown men fished together, then told stories on each other.
Just like a bunch of kids.
When Tommy passed away, my dad grieved like he’d lost his own brother and then grieved for the brother who did. As the years went by, Jerry and Amy’s relationship changed. Their fishing trips stopped and when they saw each other, their stories became emotional and personal as they reminisced more and more about the old neighborhood.
This friendship was stronger than fishing line.
Jerry and my father would not see each other for a while but when they did, it was like they were boys again. They’d laugh and joke and slap the other on the back and someone would always mention that bratty girl, Amy, who lived on the corner. Over the years, I measured my father’s life and his friendships by the people who called him by his nickname. Those are the people that remember my father when his hair was dark and his life was before him.
Friends that called him Amy.
The last time Jerry and Amy saw each other was a random encounter that neither expected. Amy’s face lit up when his old friend rounded the corner and he recognized who he was. Jerry knew my father’s health was failing but was caught off guard by the proof of it. By then, my father was in a wheelchair so Jerry sat as close as he could to hear my dad’s words. Amy reached for Jerry’s hand and thanked him for being his friend. Dad told Jerry that he was the one person left who knew the most about him and remembered where he came from. Since he was a kid, a boy nicknamed Amy knew that he could always count on the person who gave him that name and he wanted to tell him.
Jerry was his dearest friend.
With that, Jerry held my father’s hand, one last time, reluctant to let him go. After the pair said a touching goodbye, Jerry slipped into the parking lot to cry.
He never saw his old friend again.
It was Jerry who helped carry my father to his final resting place north of the railroad tracks, and Jerry wept when he had to leave his old friend behind. Jerry and Amy had the kind of friendship all of us seek, the kind of friendship worthy of nicknames and tall tales of the good ole’ days.
A friendship that lasts a lifetime.