Shil Patel has been one of my longest friends. We first met in sixth grade, not too long after my family moved to Temecula, though we really became friends in seventh grade when we competed in Language Arts Field Day together. Nearly now for twenty years, he has been a treasure to me.

We competed in Mock Trial together, and with our friends, shared the memory of competing in the state championship during our senior year in high school. He was my date to prom in our junior year, and I will never forget singing to the Spice Girls all the way across the bridge to the Hotel Del Coronado. All the week leading up to prom, we brought each other gifts to represent the number of days remaining. He was the best prom date any girl ever could have asked for, and I always consider myself lucky to have gone with him.

We shared birthday parties, scavenger hunts, working on projects for AP Government and Econ (an infamous toothpaste commercial). There was the play in Fallbrook we went to in order to see one of our friends, Amber. Football games with confetti…blasting “Tub Thumping” in the car…a million other little memories of our high school days.

In college, he and one of my other best friends Steve were across the bay at Berkeley. On the weekend that my high school boyfriend broke up with me, I boarded the Cal Train at Stanford, caught the BART in San Francisco, and Shil and Steve met me at the Berkeley station. I spent the weekend watching Shil perform in the Indian dance festival, sleeping on his bed while he slept on his floor, and going to absolutely the best party I’ve ever been to—the after party in on the Berkeley campus where we danced ALL night. Shil taught me the Bhangra, and it has been party of my essence ever since. I always credit Shil and Steve for jumpstarting the recovery of my heartbreak that weekend. They have always been two true gentlemen. When I came to see him perform the second year, he took me to one of the most memorable meals of my life, Indian food at Vik’s Chaat House in Berkeley in an unidentified warehouse. This started my love affair with Indian cuisine that continues to this day…well that, and his dad’s amazing cooking!

Later Shil celebrated at my marriage to Bill. He also came to my classroom and taught my AP English students how to practice sutures on a raw piece of chicken during our end of the year Curious Project.

It will be almost 14 years since Shil has lived in Temecula when he finishes his fellowship in Arizona. He has always known two things in life, since early high school: 1) He loves his family and wants to practice near them, and 2) That would be in the medical profession (he is an eye surgeon, specializing in retinas).

I, for one, am eager for the day that he comes home. He brings with him both an effervescence and tranquility. At times we have not been as much in contact as we might intend, but we know that we are forever friends no matter the phases of our lives. What a gift he is!

Today I was able to spend the afternoon with Shil, and Eric was able to meet him for the first time.

True friends are a goodness And how old am I that I now have friendships that have lasted twenty years? 🙂

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