Last week I was visited by a friend; Neil Doherty is his name.
Before I tell you about it some background is in order. It began in 1959 when I was going to elementary school. I met Neil in the third grade. He had been left back. We were taught by the Sisters of Mercy at St. Agatha School. In their infinite wisdom they made us line up and sit in alphabetical order. So the order was DeFreitas, Doherty, Farley and Farrell.
We all got along well. We continued this arrangement till 8th grade. At first we were considered rascals and later disrupters, then comics, class clowns, and finally instigators. We dared to encourage others in class to make trouble. That is what Neil was best at.
We ended the eighth grade with our graduation where we all were supposed to sing songs of the greatness of God and how we were to be moving on. We all thanked God we were getting away from the devils dressed as penguins. The nun in charge of choir practice was one we had in other earlier years and she knew us well. The very first day she threw us out. “You won’t sing at your graduation. See what your parents think about that.”
We were heart-broken as we laughed our way down the center aisle of the church. We knew that we were let out of school one hour early to practice, so being barred from singing meant we had one more hour to do with as we pleased.
Well, Bruce Farley and Tommy Farrell went their separate ways and I never heard from them again. Neil and I went to the same high school – Bishop Ford. At Ford we split up somewhat – Neil took Spanish, I French. He took to math, I to history. Since we lived in the same neighborhood we would meet up on our way to school and home again. Every day two trains and a bus ride, but we remained close.
In my sophomore year my parents retired and moved to Florida, and the gang of four, now the gang of two, became the gang of none. We kept in touch somewhat but soon that too faded. That was 1966. We lost touch.
Then in 2008 my sister, who was looking up old classmates (she too went to St. Agatha’s), found Neil and called me and told me of her find. Soon after I received an e-mail from him. We exchanged pleasantries and a little catching up. Then one day I received a message that he was in serious money trouble, his company went bankrupt, and he was selling his personal things to pay the rent on an apartment for him and his girlfriend. He wanted $2000 to see him clear.
I was taken aback. Here was someone I hadn’t heard from in 40 years asking for money, and a large some at that. I was troubled, to say the least. Memories discard the bad first and the unknown is sometimes more frightening than the truth.
I was torn. I confided in a workmate who I knew had a heart of gold yet a level head upon her shoulders. She advised me, “Do what you feel is right. If you get burned, then you’ll know… If you don’t send it you’ll never know.” THANK YOU LUPE!
I heard from Neil not long afterwards. He moved to Houston, got a new job, and started to pay me back. In 2009, I invited him to accompany me to see the 175th reenactment of the fall of the Alamo, in San Antonio. He came and brought his severely disabled girlfriend with him. They both were glad to be there. Indeed we all were. They invited me to Houston for Thanksgiving 2011 and it was wonderful. I had to beg him to stop sending checks as payback, for I was not keeping account, and he, being an accountant, wasn’t either. They came to Tucson to see me last week to encourage, to support, to invite me to live in Houston with them.
I wonder, do money, time, distance mean anything, or am I just lucky?