Mates for 45 years. A bloke who’ll always be our Captain. Even if he falls asleep mid-sentence.

We’ve known each other since we were 4 years old.

Kindergarten buddies. First day, with Miss Thorburn.

I don’t remember the finer details, but I’m sure he would have been organising us. Who could sit where. What we’d do at the lunch break.

We were together in primary school. Played footy and cricket all the way through.

He was the Captain. That went without saying. A natural leader. Even back then, he was defending his mates.

His other nickname was ‘Weird Harold’. From the character in the Fat Albert cartoon. They looked nothing alike, but by actions alone could have been twins.

As kids, a bunch of us would get up to wonderful fun each afternoon. Whatever was going, we’d be into. He was always leading the way.

It was the same in high school. If we were in a team together, he was the Skipper. By then, we were also playing league on the weekend. Of course, he had the ‘C’ next to his name in the program.

He was fearless on the field. Always looking out for his friends. He loved the battle, and the mateship. He knew how lucky we all were, forging friendships that would last a lifetime.

I remember The Captain in a dressing room, before a final. He was receiving a pain-killing injection from the club doctor. His knee was a mess, but he refused to leave us short. He climbed the wall as the needle went in. All the way up. Excruciating pain.

I thought about that episode, when I saw him limping last weekend. A visit we’d both been looking forward to. He’s already had major surgery on that leg. It’s playing up again.

He’s paying the price for not wanting to let us down, all those years ago. It just wasn’t in his nature. Old school.

There was no complaining this time around, of course. He was too busy telling me a thousand stories. And listening to mine. Over numerous cool drinks.

We still laugh at tales we’ve heard a thousand times. That’s what old mates do. We get faster, and stronger, and funnier, as time goes by.

He’s another one who graduated from the University of Life. With an opinion on everything. And you’ll hear what it is, whether you like it or not.

Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s one of the smartest people I know. An answer for everything.

We talked for hours, until he fell asleep. Mid-sentence, sitting up, on the lounge. Granted, the hour was late. But I didn’t think I’d been that boring.

He explained it later as a ‘micro nap’. Part of his army training. Yes, he’s also incredibly fullĀ of it. He forgets that I’ve been watching him nod off since Hawkie was PM.

We made time to remember a great mate, who’s no longer with us. A cancer victim, who was taken far too early. We both miss him dearly. He was another from those carefree early days. Glasses were raised. The joy of shared memories.

Mateship, in all forms, is a wonderful thing. I feel for those who miss out on it. Life-forming, and life-lasting.

We’ll catch up again soon. There’ll be more laughs. More drinks. And The Captain will fall asleep. That’s the beauty of true friends. You know exactly what you’ll get.

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