This weekend I had the incredible honor of attending my dear friend Keith’s wedding: he and his bride Sarah kindly invited my whole family to the beautiful event (even the boys, who miraculously behaved like cherubs …I’m wondering if my father bribed them with the promise of new cars on their 16th birthdays). In case it isn’t obvious from the photograph, Keith and his family are Scottish – his father, John, agreed to pose proudly with his son for my photograph. Afterwards, he looked down and noticed the way Keith had tied the laces of his shoes.

Keith’s dad: “You’ve tied them wrong!”
Keith: “I’ve done no such thing!”
Keith’s dad: “Yes y’have! They should be tied to the side, like mine, not in the front! I can’t take ye anywhere, can I?”

This, of course, is banter I’ve been privy too for the eleven years that I’ve known Keith. We met in graduate school at a Caleigh dance where there were quite a few inebriated folks performing what was meant to be the “Highland Fling.” My rendition was probably more “fling” and less “Highland,” but Keith and his friends took pity on the loud American who was, at the very least, putting forth a good effort. Luck was very much on our side when we ended sitting inches from one another for the next year: I in stroke seat and he in the coxswain’s “throne” of several extremely fast eights. Keith was – and is – the best coxswain I’ve ever had the privilege of rowing with. All jokes aside about short, bossy people with loud voices, having Keith in that seat was tantamount to walking in a bad neighborhood with a pit bull: no one stood a chance against us. Better yet, he never yelled at us, he yelled for us, a difference that I’m convinced is instinctive and cannot be taught. My husband (also a rower) always laughs when I insist it’s just as physically demanding to cox as to row a race, but I don’t think he’s ever seen someone invest themselves the way Keith did. Even in practice, he brought legendary intensity: no matter the weather (usually rain) or the exhaustion level (usually high), he found our speed for us.

Keith is the same in friendship as he is in coxing – unwavering, intense, complete. He actually helped pick out the shoes I wore on my first date with my husband:

Me: “Which ones should I wear?”
Keith: “That pair says ‘take me seriously, I’m highly intellectual.’”
Me: “And these?”
Keith: “They say ‘I’m a complete tart and I’m here for a good time.’”

(And no, I’ll never tell which ones I chose).

Keith has steered me into more blade clashes than any other cox (we never lost a single one), has baby-sat my children (although he looked very panicked as I left the house), and has climbed atop rickety scaffolding to paint our hallway (because we finally had to put him to work during a visit where he sat on our couch for over a week). I look forward to spending decades more with Keith and Sarah, and sharing this photograph – and my memories – with their children.

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