Kim used to tease her dad about his other family on the west side. She never really thought that her dad had two separate families with two wives and two sets of kids, but she loved to give him a hard time about it.
Kim has worked for the same hospital for ten years and so her group of co-workers feels a lot like a family. They know each others strengths and witnesses and know which buttons can be pushed. In those ten years I’ve worked for many different companies – for me much of the constancy has been provided by the people I see at conferences year after year.
This is my tenth year at the JavaOne conference. The first few times I attended, I was working for my sister. She assembled a bunch of writers and geeks to come in and crank out a ton of articles providing coverage for the week. It’s where I met some of the friends I value most to this day. These are part of my “road family”. These are the people I grab a cup of coffee with, laugh with, catch up with, go to sessions with, and exchange ideas with.
At this year’s JavaOne I don’t seem to be able to walk ten feet without bumping into someone else I’ve known for years. It’s been two days and hundreds of hugs. Support and love from yet another community that has embraced me figuratively in the past and literally here this week.
And the news.
One friend has shared his home and his life with the same woman for more years than I’ve been married to Kim. They’d never gotten married during all those years and now it seems as if they are getting married all the time. He ticked off six ceremonies between last July and next month.
Another friend probably won’t be showing up to give his session tonight. His son was born yesterday. It’s a small connected world. The birth took place less than an hour from San Francisco and yet this morning pictures are mailed to me from a friend in Mexico who got them from another friend in Portland.
Friends have grown or shaved beards since I saw them last. Others have gained or lost weight since I saw them – what was it two, no three years ago. Some are in the same job as last time, many have moved, and still others are looking. Some I share a room with, others a cab, or a meal, or a ride on the bus or subway.
It’s not like a college reunion. Except for the people I keep in touch with, I haven’t seen many of my classmates for two or more decades. This feels more like a family reunion. Sure there’s a conference going on and sessions to attend, but I’ve gone out for so much coffee with friends that I may not get a proper night’s sleep for a week.