I have a virtual litmus test for friends that I like to use when qualifying the very best in that category. It goes like this, “Who would you call if you A. Had a flat tire in the rain at 1:00 AM and/or B. Needed to borrow $5,000, no questions asked.
Now let me add this disclaimer: I have a AAA membership so in theory, I’ll never have to weed out friends in this way and my father taught me a long time ago that you should never borrow money from a friend. But let’s just say what if…
My dear friend, Rowe, would pass this test hands down. Rowe is that guy and he turned 60 last week.
We’re an odd couple, the lesbian and the cowboy. If you ran into Rowe on the weekend, you’d think the Marlboro Man was on location in Greensboro – albeit without the cigarettes. His uniform is crisp jeans, a western shirt, vest, and boots – real cowboy boots not fashionista ones. During the week he’s in a suit as the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Banks for North Carolina.
Yeah, I really don’t know what he does but if you manage a bank and he drops in to see you on a Friday afternoon, chances are he’s not making a deposit.
Rowe and I have cancelled each other out in almost every election and his idea of a fun vacation is working on a real ranch in Montana for a week. He’s Duck Dynasty and I’m Downton Abbey but our friendship works because we share a lot of core values – family, kindness, and respect for BBQ. And he’s funny as hell.
He’s an old school gentleman, the kind that would never think of not opening a door for a lady. He’s the kind of man who walks you to your car at night and tells you to “be careful” on the drive home. And he rarely lets you pay for dinner.
Rowe and his wife, Rhonda, were “home” to me during a very difficult time in my life. I had been in a toxic relationship that almost destroyed everything I ever cared about and I was as lost as a soul can be. I met them at my church and liked them a lot and when I fell from grace, they were there to catch me and offer me what I needed most – comfort and connection.
Sometimes that was just watching a football game on a Sunday afternoon. Rhonda was generous enough to cede her recliner to me and Rowe and I looked like any married couple cheering on the Packers (his team).
Rowe is not a big talker (understatement) but he would always manage to say a lot with a little on those afternoons that turned into evenings and I felt cared for.
When my wife and I had a blessing at our church last May, a few weeks after our civil ceremony in D.C., there was no question who would present us during our service and walk down the aisle before us – my “other” mother, Sue, and Rhonda and Rowe.
A few weeks before the blessing Rowe asked me what I wanted him to wear. He has more clothes than most women and his closet is as neat and organized as the Men’s Department at Bloomingdale’s. I wanted Rowe to be comfortable so I told him to wear whatever he wanted to and he came as a cowboy and it was just perfect.
Several weeks ago, Rowe decided that he wanted to celebrate his milestone birthday with a Brews Cruise in Asheville – a tour and tasting at three breweries. There would be a total of 14 people on our short bus – all related except for me and my wife.
At the first stop on our cruise, Rowe and I ended up standing together away from the group a bit and he said in his low mumble, “I’m really glad ya’ll could come.” I told him it meant a lot to me to be included in his family celebration. And then he said, “Well, you’re family. You’re my family. And it wouldn’t have been the same without you.”
My voice cracked as I tried to garble a response and we shared a side-hug that said everything we needed to say.
Later in the day I made a toast to my “knight in shining denim” and I could swear that I heard that old Willie Nelson song in the background, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.