When I joined our local YMCA Men’s Health Center, I thought that I was simply joining a place where I could sometimes go to exercise and work out. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought.

But, little by little, as I frequented the Men’s Health Center of our local YMCA, one starts to get to know people.

There was Harry who is a crazy cool guy. You never knew what Harrison was going to say next. Then there is Mike. Full of energy always. How in the world his wife keeps up with him, we will never know. Finally, there is Steve. A quiet guy who was in the Korean War and keeps mainly to himself – but we all know that deep down there is a great guy in there somewhere.

In the evenings, after we worked out, many of us sat on the couch in the TV room and watched sports. Occasionally we watched the news and, of course, between all of us we solved all of the world’s problems. “President Herbert Hoover spoke Chinese? Really? I don’t believe you!”

As such, little by little, the Men’s Health Center of my local YMCA became not just a place where I would go to work out, but a place where I went to see old friends, old male buddies – and create new male buddy friends.

In the steam room we would sit, sweat like crazy and discuss things that happened in our day. In the hot tub “Old Glen” would tell us that he “has not earned any money today” even though we all knew that Glen was quite wealthy.

Then there was Tom. Tom’s locker was next to mine and whenever we were at the YMCA at the same time, he would break out singing “Nessum Dorma” from the opera Turandot and he would invite me to join him in singing this opera song. Joe was maybe the worst singer ever; but the only one who sang worse than Joe, was me.

Yet, that did not stop Tom and I from singing “Nessum Dorma!” in our horrible rendition of that wonderful opera song in a way which would have made Luciano Pavaroti squirm.

And the bonds between us grew. The friendships between the guys grew.

Sometimes we would run into another Men’s Health Center buddy at the mall while he was out with his family and we would ask something like “when will you be back there?” and he would answer, “maybe tomorrow or Friday.” No further statements were needed. We knew what the other guy meant. He meant that maybe in a day or two we would once again be back to cement the bonds of friendship that united us at the Men’s Health Center.

In this day and age, when men find it difficult to make new friends, the Men’s Health Center of our local YMCA created for us an oasis where men could make new male friendships and not feel self- conscious about it. Maybe as technology advances and website such as this FindAMateForFree.com website can be a place where older guys can maybe get to meet, a place like the YMCA Men’s Health Center was great for us.

When one of our members passed away, we would all sign a condolences card for the family. If one of our guys had a child who married, we would all sign a card congratulating him.

It was a wonderful place. It was an oasis from the day-to-day. The men in the Men’s Health Center were “army buddies” to each other.

One day, on a cool, blustery September fall day, I heard that my good buddy Tom had passed away. It was a sad day and I wished his family well. All of us at the Men’s Health Center signed a card for the family.

A few days later, my cell phone rang. It was Tom’s son. He called me to let me know that his dad had written in his will for someone to call me to let me know that “Joe would not be singing Nessum Dorma with you anymore.”

I’ll miss Joe – as all of us at the Men’s Health Center will miss Joe.

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