“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
That’s the last line from the movie,Stand By Me, which starred the late River Phoenix and pre-Star Trek/Big Bang Theory’s Will Wheaton. A copywriter friend and I were discussing that last line and how friendships can take a turn after you become teenagers and start hanging out with people with whom you have more in common than what class you are in or where you live.
We both agreed we were more like the Will Wheaton character. He played the writer who, following the death of one of his boyhood friends, reminisces about an adventure he and his crew had in retrieving a dead body on the outskirts of town. While none of my friends resembled the River Phoenix’ character, Chris, my friend said one of his buddies did.
The friend was still very much alive, though he’d recently been dealt a setback—cancer. Yet as my copywriter friend talked about his boyhood friend, the similarities were astounding. His friend was a protector of the weak. He’d stand up to bullies who picked on friends. Neighborhood legend has it he once got in the middle of a shouting match between an inebriated husband and his wife. Again, protecting those who could protect themselves.
In Stand by Me, the River Phoenix character, as an adult, was stabbed breaking up a fight. My friend said he remembered his buddy being involved in a fight against somebody with a knife—actually two people. He fared a little better than the River Phoenix character, knocking the knife to the ground and delivering a pretty healthy beating.
“What about the other characters from the movie? Did you guys have anybody like that in your crew?” I asked.
My friend said he and his buddy used to hang out with his younger cousins. They didn’t have their cousin’s courage, but made up for it in loyalty—just like the characters in the movie.
“So what other types of adventures did you guys have? Any dead bodies?”
My friend responded no. Mostly just fun hanging out and doing the things kids did when you were that age: street hockey, skating on frozen ponds, sledding, pick-up wiffle ball games, playing catch with the Frisbee in the front yard.
“Sounds nice,” I say.
“It was,” he said.
As the conversation started to lag, I asked how his friend was doing now.
“Don’t really know. Haven’t seen him in a while. Like I said, we kind of stopped hanging out after a while during school and we lost track over the years. But I’ll tell you one thing. Cancer picked the wrong guy.”
The look in my friend’s eyes when he said that sent a bit of a chill down my spine. But I could see the devotion not of a middle-aged man, but of a 12-year-old boy whose buddy had been delivered a pretty significant blow. It was the look of somebody a little scared but confident that the boy he viewed as a hero would whip cancer the way he stood up to neighborhood bullies.
It made me think of my own friends from childhood and how true that line from Stand By Me was. And it’s yet another reason why on August 2, I’ll be riding a bicycle from Wellesley to Bourne to raise $3200 or more for the Jimmy Fund/Dana Farber as part of the Pan Mass Challenge.
If you like to remember a friend you lost to cancer, there are few better ways than donation to a Pan Mass Challenge rider. One hundred percent of your donation will go to the Jimmy Fund/Dana Farber. That’s right, 100 percent. Make your donation today.