A Wonder Years Drive-by

Who says you can never go back?

So Stand by Me remains my all-time favorite film, barely edging out Casablanca. And if Fred Savage had traded-in his NY Jet’s jacket for a pint-sized USC letterman’s sweater, he could’ve been happiest Wonder Years me several decades earlier.

I freakin loved being 12-years old. Our little family was thriving, I knew exactly who I was, and I had friends who turned out being the best friends I’d ever have. In Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic film about four 12-year old boys hiking to find a body next to the tracks but discovering much more about themselves, the narrator sums up friendship (years later as) “…I hadn’t seen him in years, but I’ll miss him forever.”

Last week, right in the middle of contractors, property managers, sales guys, H/R consultants, nervous patients, and a few troublemakers asking about my potential retirement, I experienced a couple of hours of magic. And a Wonder Years’ drive-by.

Oscar and I met when my dad took on coaching the Peewee Pirates over at Garvey Park in South San Gabriel. And Oscar and I were classmates from the 6th Grade at Richard Garvey through Mark Keppel High and all the way through our years at Cal State, LA. But I think maybe because Oscar turned out being the amazing athlete I envied but never was, we were closest while we both enjoyed the simple freedom of being junior high kids.

When I successfully escaped the clutches of USC dental school, Oscar, his wife Pat, and their two young daughters were among my very first patients. Last week, I learned Oscar and Pat were grandparents and just a few married years away from #50. My relationships, on the other hand, have tended to become sort of problematic at around 6-months.

Oscar has been part of our TCDC folklore for years. The way I remember and share it, I could dunk a volleyball, ala Woody Harrelson, maybe once out of about twenty attempts. Oscar could go straight up with two hands. After our 10-year high school reunion, we put a slow pitch softball team together and it was as if Gold Glove Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson had suddenly been transformed into a skinny 28-year old Mexican third baseman.

I was a decent athlete who worked hard to be a good student. Oscar was a pretty good student who was a gifted natural athlete. I wanted to be Oscar.

Through the years, we both lost brothers far too early; Oscar and family moved up to northern California. And like my dad, Oscar had the passion for and found the time to coach kids; starting with his daughters and continuing with all those fortunate enough to cross his knowledgeable and caring path.

Last week, thanks to social media, true friendship, and good fortune, and after thirty-something years, Stand by Me met up with the Wonder Years for a couple of hours in Temple City. And who says you can never go back?

It was beyond special reliving good times with someone I hadn’t seen in years but whom I would’ve missed forever. And it brought a tear when I learned my dad had been a mentor for more than just one Peewee Pirate.