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Ties that bind lifelong friends are forged in shared experience

This is how half-ball is played, according to the author: “You pitch it underhand and try to hit it with one of your mother’s stolen broomsticks.”

By Charlie Sacchetti

Not long ago I received a surprise phone call from Bob, a childhood friend who lived across the street. He decided to touch base to make sure all was well in light of the coronavirus that the world’s brightest minds are trying to outsmart. It was great to hear from my old pal who went on from 64th Street and Buist Avenue in Southwest Philly to become Dr. Robert Teears, noted pathologist living and working in Boise, Idaho.
I’ve always been amazed at how so many of my friends from our little section of town, barely 1 square mile, would go on to become wonderful physicians. Aside from Bob, there was radiologist Pat Inverso; the late nephrologist Joe Pitone; ophthalmologist Ron Kimball; and my very close friend, Michael DellaVecchia, ophthalmologist, anatomical and clinical pathologist with a Ph.D. in engineering and physics. Mike is also the current president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Where did all these guys get their brains from? Could it have been something in the water ice or the Italian hoagies? If that’s all it was, I’d be the head of NASA. At least part of the answer is that like me, they all were raised in good, hard-working, middle-class families. Our work ethic and other values were taught to us by parents who sacrificed daily to take care of their children. My friends’ achievements and success stemmed from the hard work and sacrifices they themselves made to become leaders in the medical field. Their roots were the beginning of it all.
So, it was inevitable that during Bob’s call, our conversation would touch upon our childhood and the old neighborhood. It was easy for me to remember stuff about my old friend. He’d join in our many games of half-ball, stick ball and two-hand touch football. The long driveway, behind his house, served as a ballfield of sorts. His younger brother Gary would pitch semi-hard sponge balls while another one of us would put on a catcher’s mask. As the batter stepped to the plate, Bob would take his position behind the catcher preferring to call balls and strikes. He even bought an umpire’s clicker to make sure he was accurate with the count. As all of this action was occurring, you could see Bob and Gary’s grandfather, Mr. Thompson, up above on the rear porch cheering Gary on and sometimes booing the ump. To this day, I still tell Bob he was the best (and only) ump on the block! But Bob had no trouble mixing it up as a player, too. In fact, I am certain that one summer Bobby led the league in broken half-ball broom sticks, victims of his competitive wrath when he would fail to come up with a big hit and take out his frustration on an unsuspecting nearby brick wall! It soon became apparent to me that the passion he demonstrated in those games was miniscule compared to his passion for studying and learning. Among other things, while the rest of us were outside at night fooling around, you could see Bob’s bedroom light on as he studied those tough courses while excelling in his different levels of education. I remember waving to him, on more than one occasion, as he embarked upon his late night jogs around the block when he decided to take a break from his extreme mental workouts.

So many years have gone by since those days of our youth. When I speak with my old friends, who I still see frequently, or to a guy like Bob who has been away for years, there is more than one common thread. First of all, no one has forgotten where they came from. The upbringing and values we shared are still vivid in our minds as are the things we did together. Even if there has been no contact for years, when that reunion occurs it’s as though one never left. Most importantly, the bonds of youthful friendships seem impossible to break.

I’m really happy that I received his call that night. Sharing a few laughs, with my old friend, was just the right prescription I needed to pick me up during this time of uncertainty and suffering. May God bless and protect my friends and the rest of our nation’s health-care professionals.

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books,“It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com

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