Robert Kirby: Shrinking the distance in old relationships

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

Ever wonder what happened to people with whom you were once close but over time just drifted apart?

I do. People like me — military brats, former criminals, cops, the casually offensive, etc. — tend to look over our shoulders a lot, wondering what happened to those we once loved/hated.

Theoretically, most relationships are based largely on circumstance. People are thrown together and bonded by proximity to events. But things sometimes change. We move, decide to clean up our acts, or just lose interest in the same things.

Note: I’m going to use pseudonyms here because some former associates have become respectable and might not want it known that we are or were friends. They’ll recognize themselves, but you won’t unless you were there with us.

Case in point for me is Ranger, a guy with whom I went through Army basic training and then airborne training at Fort Benning. We were tight back in ’72.

Then I unplugged from the wild side and went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I saw Ranger a couple of times after that, but things weren’t the same. Thirty years ago, he dropped off the grid. Other than rumors of a few arrests and several failed marriages/relationships, I haven’t heard anything about him.

Maybe he wants it that way. I wouldn’t blame him. And since we really had only military training in common, I won’t go looking for him. Probably be different if we’d seen combat together.

Thanks to social media, it can be easier to touch base. Sunday, a woman posted a request on a mission website, asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of the two missionaries who baptized her family — Elders Strummer and Atticus.

I was companions with both of them at different times. We got along well, probably because we hated the same things in an overly starched environment. Also, Atticus put another missionary in the hospital over — well, I can’t remember. But he definitely had it coming.

Even though it’s been decades since we’ve corresponded, I tried to find Strummer and Atticus on the internet. No luck. Too much time has passed.

Sometimes our pasts come looking for us. Just before Christmas, I received a card from Riddler, who is still in Southern California (or close), where I left him in 1970. There were five of us in a roving band of miscreants of which I was the worst — Riddler, The Bishop, Rebel and Jeremiah Johnson.

Within a couple of days, Riddler, Jeremiah, Bishop and I were swapping emails as if the past 50 years had been but a blink. Reb doesn’t want to play now, which is understandable. We all carry the marks of pranks that went sideways.

Although the four of us live hundreds of miles apart, and almost never see one another, we still find the same things funny. And we still give one another crap over things we barely remember.

It’s too bad more relationships — at least the good ones — don’t stand the test of time and distance. Even some families aren’t that close.

Maybe now is a good time to shrink the distance and the anger between those with whom we were once close.

I’ll go first. Uruguay, 1973-75. Elder Michael Hair (Las Piedras) and Elder Michael Prescott (Progreso), where the hell are you?

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.