On my first day in Eugene, in the Fall of 2005, I found myself standing in front of the announcement board of Hendricks Hall on the University of Oregon Campus. It is there where I was browsing the profiles of numerous other members of my cohort for the school’s Community and Regional Planning and Public Administration Graduate degrees. I noticed that one of the students was a graduate of BYU Hawaii. As a Mormon, that meant that there was a good chance I already knew a lot about this guy. Though we had come to Eugene with full purpose of mind to be open to all sorts of new experiences and people, I must say that those first few weeks of adjustment were inclining me towards anything familiar. I met Dave Stockdale, my first week in Eugene and he and his wife Teresa were at our house for food and games our second weekend in Eugene.
It was clear from the beginning that (for us at least) this was a couple that we were going to enjoy being around. They were laid back, loved to laugh and were in a very similar situation to our own. Over the next few years, our lives were deeply seasoned by a heavy dose of “Stockdale.” They lived a few blocks from us and we found ourselves at their home nearly every night. The Stockdales quickly became the friends that we could be ourselves around. Their little condo became the living stage for two years of gut splitting laughter, commiserations about school, marriage, relationships, family planning. The soundtrack was 90s alternative, 70’s fluff, “Office” episodes, and generally non-critically acclaimed movies from the Stockdale’s DVD collection. The fare was always delicious, the games were often vicious. Several game playing dynamics that stand out include the following:
- Someone (probably Teresa) Utters a fairly directed “Whose turn is it?.... Jake!?"
- “Freak Dave, leave me alone!!!” as Annie throws her Settlers of Catan cards at Dave and Dave laughs uncontrollably
- Teresa, perturbed by some game move of Dave’s, glares at him with a look that makes her unapproving disposition very clear. Dave responds with a sort of “this had better be worth it” look on his face.
- Jake turning any comment into a cue for a brief musical interlude.
The Stockdales really became our first experience with having a surrogate family. Annie and I both have a long history of deep friendships, but the combination of deep friendship and incredible distance from family created a new kind of friendship and reliance. I remember once I found myself contemplating a bit of a potential financial bind. Dave expressed his willingness to help us out if we needed it. I was deeply moved by that, because it felt like something only family would do. We didn’t end up needing the help, but the gesture was a powerful one that I have never forgotten. On another occasion Annie and I found ourselves stranded in Grants Pass, Oregon. Our vehicle had broken down and we had spent the night in a hotel. The car wouldn’t be repaired for days and we were pretty careworn. After relaying our circumstances the Stockdale’s insisted on driving the three hours down to Grants Pass to get us and take us back home. I am moved again by the very memory as I write it now.
A particularly spectacular highlight in those years was the rather bizarre alignment of European trips that we independently scheduled and yet serendipitously placed us both in Florence, Italy together for about a day and a half. It felt bizarre when it happened and only seems to increase in its wonder each time we contemplate it.
Over the years our families have grown, our neighborhoods have changed, our priorities have evolved (and been added upon). I remember Annie and I screaming out loud in the middle of a blessing on a dinner, which Dave had used as a clever opportunity to announce Teresa’s pregnancy with their first child Bella (whom they had to wait too long for). They, in turn, mourned with us in our family-starting struggles and celebrated with us when things finally came together.
We don’t see the Stockdales as much as we used to and not as much as we’d like to. Still on occasion we have gotten together for some good food and conversation and to let our kids become better acquainted, and to always pause for reflection and gratitude on a room now brimming with screaming kids. Most of these get-togethers also result in a card or board game or two. The most recent permutation of this involves the Callisters sleeping over so that we can play into the night like we used to.
Also memorably, Dave and I recently had the opportunity to do something that we had long wanted to do: work on something together professionally. As public servants in the same (relatively small) town, it seemed possible that it would happen at some point. It finally did last year and it was a pleasure to see Dave at work and realize how good he is at his job.