My third year (junior year) at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, was a special year for me. I struggled academically at the beginning of the year, but I grew a great deal. Part of that growth came through my relationships with my roommates, Carl and Fred, who opened my eyes and my mind to many more possibilities than I had ever imagined. Mostly they challenged my platitudinous life, forcing me to ask, over and over again, why I was doing whatever I was doing.
Before we roomed together, Fred and I had worked together in the summers at the Faribault, MN, cannery. And during my sophomore year, Carl and I became friends as we hitch-hiked part-way, took a train part-way, and then took a ferry across Lake Michigan to my home over spring break one year.
I kept in touch with both of them over the years.
Twenty years later, we visited with Carl several times while I was teaching in Hawaii. I remember an especially exhilarating day there, weeding a taro patch with him there, and arguing about politics and economics.
Fred and I kept in touch off and on, too; during our year together, he and I both developed an extreme fondness for Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain and for the Beethoven late string quartets, and I always reflect on our past together when I hear them. And I still have a shirt that he traded to me.
But the years passed, and I hadn't heard from either of them for several years.
Yesterday I saw in the alumni news magazine from Carleton College that they both died last summer, within a month of each other, on opposite sides of the globe. I have spent much of the past day or so reflecting on how important they were in my growth and how grateful I am to have known them.