By Tim Hayes
The first time we met, I didn’t even know he was in the room.
Sophomore year of college, sitting in a small auditorium in an administration building at the far corner of campus, listening to the new editorial staff of the school newspaper describe plans for the coming year. As a raw journalism major, I’d written a handful of stories as a freshman, but knew my output needed to increase.
When the editor-in-chief asked if anybody had a question, I raised my hand, stood up, and declared, “I’m sick of getting lousy story assignments.” Even as the words escaped my lips, somewhere inside my head a voice screamed, “Shut up, Stupid! You’re blowing it!”
The other kids laughed and the editor promised to try harder. I sat down, red-faced but somehow proud of stating my case so bluntly. What I had no way of knowing, though, was that another journalism major, sitting a few rows behind me, witnessed that declaration and made a mental note of it, thinking “I’ve got to get to know this guy.”
That fellow, also named Tim, would become my closest confidant, my college roommate, and a lifelong best friend to this day.
A year later, he became editor-in-chief and I moved up to news editor of the school paper. We made a good team, surrounded by a lot of other highly driven j-majors. The university’s student co-op provided a small salary, but at one point during the year, our pay became a possible target of cost-cutting. Tim and I swooped into action, writing editorials supporting our side of the story, and calling on the entire student body to back us up by taping the front page to dorm windows and classroom buildings.
When exactly no one did, we took matters into our own hands, staying up all night with stacks of newspapers and rolls of Scotch tape, manufacturing our own grassroots protest in support of our still getting a check for date money every other week. Our salaries were saved – not by our half-ass PR stunt, but by some backroom deal cut by the paper’s business manager and the co-op. Sure was a fun night of self-delusional failed activism, though.
As roommates in an off-campus apartment, we shared stories, worked on assignments and projects, and accumulated what may have qualified as the Guinness world record for the hairiest bathroom in the western hemisphere. My girlfriend absolutely refused to use it, walking the four flights of stairs up to her apartment in the same building whenever nature called. Couldn’t blame her.
Dubbed “Tim” and “Tim Jr.” by my future father-in-law, we lived above a pizza parlor that sold thick cheesy slices for a dollar, the aroma filling our second-floor apartment constantly. Digging into sofa cushions, jeans pockets, and behind stoves for enough dimes and quarters to run downstairs and get a slice took up almost as much time as studying. Probably more. Well…yeah, definitely more.
After graduation, we both ended up writing full-time for the newspaper in that college town, me on the news desk and him on sports. Helping him move into his first apartment after college (I was married by then), we tried for over an hour to hoist a seemingly 10-ton, massively unwieldy and uncooperative sofa up a flight of steps, trying every angle, every position, to no avail. Sitting on those stairs, hot, drenched in sweat, exhausted, and laughing at the hopeless, ludicrous situation, I looked at him and said, “One more try.” And, wouldn’t you know it, we got that damn couch to the second floor in one shot.
In the years to follow, we both pursued our careers that took us in different directions and different locations. One Thanksgiving, when my wife and I lived in eastern Pennsylvania and couldn’t make it home to Pittsburgh, Tim and his family invited us to spend the day with them near Harrisburg in the center of the state. During the meal, his mom asked about my family, and I told her about my parents and two younger sisters. She said, “Oh, so you don’t have any brothers?” To which I leaned over, put my arm around her son, and said, “This man’s my brother, right here.” I know he felt – and still feels – the same.
In time, my career brought us back home to Pittsburgh, where Tim and his wife also had settled. Not long after our return, I learned that I had cancer. Caught very early, I went through surgery and a regimen of radiation treatments, before eventually being declared cancer-free. Within five years of my experience, Tim went through the cancer gauntlet, as well. His took a tougher road to overcome, with chemotherapy and radiation, the loss of strength and hair, but he too came through healthy and whole. The night he told me the diagnosis, I jumped in the car and drove to his house where we sat outside and talked for hours. Didn’t think twice. Had to be there for him. To let him know he could get through it, like I had.
I served as his best man, and he ushered at my wedding. He honored me by asking me to be godfather to one of his daughters. As more kids came along, we’d bring our families together at Christmas and other times during the year.
We have been the keeper of each other’s secrets, a mutually empathetic ear and reliable shoulder to lean on, the one guy in the world who will always be honest and supportive and just plain old there to have the other guy’s back.
For nearly 40 years, he has been the best friend in the world, but so much more than that. He’s been my brother. Thanks, Timmer. Love you, Bro.
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[I encourage you to check out Tim’s first book, available on Amazon.com at:
Copyright 2017 Timothy P. Hayes