Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cleveland 2012, #1

Cleveland Skyline
Cleveland Skyline (Photo credit: digipixguy)
Kim and I just returned from a five night vacation near Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland? Ya, that’s right.

In order to explain, let me take you back to 1986. That was the year I graduated from college. Most chemical engineers at the University of Maine were being groomed for positions in the pulp and paper industry. I didn't want to work in no stinkin’ mill, so I decided to take a high tech job with a company called Bailey Controls in Wickliffe, Ohio.

I started my new job in May of 1986, but flew home in July to marry Kim. After tearful goodbyes with both of our families and all of our friends, we began our marriage in a 21st story apartment in Euclid, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. Before the interview process began we didn't know a single person in Ohio, and neither of us had ever visited the Buckeye State.

That move was daring for a couple of rednecks from Lincoln, Maine, where the tallest building was three stories high, and everyone was one shade or another of white. But we were adventurous and wanted to escape Maine for a while. It turned out to be an excellent decision. I recommend that all young couples consider separating themselves from friends and family when beginning a life together. In this way you have no choice but to rely upon and trust one another. That experience forms the foundation for a strong and lasting relationship (or allows an ill-advised relationship to crumble more quickly, I suppose).

1986 085 Mitch Bailey controlsIt was our good fortune that in the years around 1986 Bailey Controls hired dozens of young engineers and technicians. The social atmosphere, therefore, was as exhilarating as college, but even better because we had some disposable income. Kim and I became devoted friends with a core group of 11 people, five couples plus Louie. Our extended group varied between 8 and 20 people on any given party night, which generally consisted of Thursday through Sunday. We also enjoyed intramural football, bowling leagues, ski trips, and pickup softball games.

Although we stayed only two years in Cleveland before returning East (I was to spend the next 12 years working in stinkin’ paper mills), we have remained close friends with our core group, having met up on 12 occasions in the last 25 years – sometimes in Cleveland, sometimes in Maine, and sometimes in between. Mark and Carrie actually ended up settling in Maine in the early 1990’s and have lived here ever since.

Due to our collective penchant for procreation, our core group of 11 swelled to 22 over the years. That made for some logistically challenging reunions, but we always managed. Now, as the children leave their nests, I expect our gatherings will become a little smaller once again.

This year it was time for the gang to meet up in Cleveland. Back in January when people started discussing this possibility, I was not at all confident that a road trip to Cleveland made sense for me. We already had one big vacation planned for 2012, our trip to the Bahamas, and I just wasn't sure I would be up for another one. Eventually, though, in May we committed to the trip and everyone finalized their plans for late July.

1986w 740It took lots of planning, teamwork, and a heroic effort by Kim, but we pulled off the vacation and had a great time. It's fascinating how we can go years without seeing one another, yet it only takes only seconds to feel wholly at ease with our dear friends. I hope all of you are lucky enough to have such strong relationships with your distant friends.

In the next few posts I'll share some stories from our vacation.

Click for next post:  Cleveland 2012, #2
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  1. How right you are about the importance of keeping in contact with old friends, people who knew us before MS, and to still see us as we were (and, in reality, still are), without the distraction of our disabilities getting in the way.

    Glad you had a nice reunion with your friends, looking forward to reading more. also enjoyed looking at the photos from the way back when machine, is it really possible that we were ever that young?

  2. Marc,

    It's funny how some of our old relationships fade away and others stay strong. It's not necessarily anyone's fault when people drift apart over time, but it sure is nice that some friends are in it for the long haul. We spent half our time in Cleveland just reminiscing, and laughing.