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"What does this say," I asked, pointing to a note scribbled in blue ink in his yearbook.

"I have no idea. That kid was really smart. I was never very good at Latin," replied Art.

"You're telling me, he wrote you this note 70 years ago, and you have no idea what he said?"

"That's what I'm telling you," he grinned.

I shook my head. Grinning and shaking one's head had become a common pastime between me and my friend. We met as classmates in January 2003 in our quest to become Master Gardeners. Art was a spry, retired, outspoken, somewhat cantankerous fellow of 72 years, who was looking for ways to productively spend his days. I was 28, working full time and looking for ways to foster creativity beyond the heavily structured practice of law. Art would poke fun as I sat in the hallway with a cellphone and yellow legal pad, juggling work during the lunch break. I would kick his chair and call him "teacher's pet" as he repeatedly raised his hand to answer questions.

Over time, we found ourselves in the same committee meetings, engaging in the same debates and clarifying parliamentary procedure. Over time, we watched each other's lives change like leaves through the seasons. Over time, we became pals.

"Pea pickin' pals," he said.

Several years ago, we implemented a standing lunch date at River Grille for the last Tuesday of each month. Over soups and sandwiches, we discussed every subject imaginable -- beloved childhood pets, old sweethearts, politics, religion, Stan the Man, mowing, animal husbandry, the dust bowl, freezing trash and the value of a clean vehicle. Our conversations were lively, and no subject was left unturned.

Occasionally, we'd go to Lady Razorback basketball games, always stopping for Chinese food on the way. Having three daughters, he was passionate to support the girls' teams.

"They work harder and still play the game as a team sport," he said.

He asked for us to get together after work last Friday evening, and for me to bring my yearbook. As we grilled steaks and cooked mushrooms, sweet corn and rolls, we called out the answers to Alex Trebek's questions on "Jeopardy." We rifled through old photographs and yearbooks, reveling in the differences and similarities. He shared his secret to cooking the perfect steak. At evening's end, we both waved as I drove away, vowing to finalize our basketball schedule at our next Tuesday lunch.

That lunch was not to be. A few days later, while my friend mowed his lawn, his gentle heart whispered that he needn't continue.

"I don't know how you've gone seven decades not knowing what this note says, but I can't go another minute," I said when he grinned at me. I googled the Latin phrase and announced, "Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit means 'Perhaps it will please us one day to remember these things.'"

Yes, my dear old friend, indeed it will.

NAN Our Town on 09/07/2017

Print Headline: Tuesdays with Art

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