Originally, I was planning on just focusing on men who have journeyed further along life’s path than I. But there is one guy I felt compelled to include as a major influence on my life who is only a few months older.
It is quite surprising that we haven’t killed each other or sent each other to the hospital more than we have. I broke his arm while playing on a trampoline. He smashed me in the face with a railroad tie sending me to the hospital to get my lip reattached. He was there when I face planted into the side of a hill while horseback riding and broke six teeth. I was there right after he was kicked in the head by a horse he was helping to train. No, I wasn’t there when he decided he wanted to be part of the house we were building and nailed himself to the wall, but my absence then was the exception.
My earliest memory of the two of us was us deciding to play in the leaves instead of touring Appomattox Courthouse while visiting his family in Virginia when we were both six. Since then, we have played together, worked together, built several houses together, and become adults together. I remember the excitement when my mother called me to see how to look at a picture message of him and a girl with the caption, “She said yes!” I remember about a year ago looking across the packed sanctuary as Dana Sorrow and Bruce Clayton entered into a lifelong covenant before God and their friends and became Mr. And Mrs. Bruce Clayton. I remember, a few months ago sitting in a crowded waiting area with eager anticipation as Bruce walked out and told us that Bradley had been born.
There are people whose life is inevitably intertwined with each other. Bruce and I have that kind of friendship. His mother sang at my parents’ wedding. We worked together while we were in high school. And now, we are neighbors, and best friends. Bruce is the kind of friend that will sit on a truck toolbox with you through the night and into the early hours of the morning while every aspect of a major life decision is discussed, debated, and evaluated while the bonfire that once roared brightly is consumed to ash. He is the kind of friend who will challenge me when I’m wrong. He is the kind of friend who I’m okay with being locked in a car with him, my family, and his family for 16 (or more) hours in two days. I know he is, because we have done these things, and more.
I have known the friendship of Bruce for most of my life. Now, I am excited to see him become a man. I have seen him stand up and protect his family. I have seen him keep his cool when things became heated. I have watched from the sidelines as he has become an amazing husband and father. If I can be part of the man he is, I will be doing pretty good.