I’ve mentioned my gratefulness for all of the love my friends have shown me many times on my blog, but I’m luckier than most people in that I can honestly say that I’ve had (and still have, of course!) at least a dozen “friends for life.” These are generally people I’ve known between 35 and 40 years, and what makes them special is that no matter how many years go by, it’s like time stands still for both of us. (At least that’s the way I feel about it.) For me, the “friends for life” category is special because it doesn’t matter how often you keep in touch—The experiences you’ve had and the feelings you have for one another never change, even as you transform from kids to adults or from young adults into old geezers. It’s kind of like having a giant extended family except that you get to choose each other rather than being stuck with someone purely based on genetics. My friend for life Richard used to say: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your relatives”–Hahaha! Truer words were never spoken.
I met about half of my “friends for life” in high school and the other half within the first few years of moving from Wisconsin to Arizona in 1983. We met in a lot of different ways–Some on the high school debate team (yes, I was a “master debater” as you jocks liked to call us in mocking good fun–Hahaha!), some in class, many in bands, some via libertarian/freedom stuff, and of course some just because we liked to party and listen to music together. Fortunately for me, I have friends for life all across the social spectrum from media types to lawyers to techies to artists/musicians to nature lovers to city slickers, ad infinitum… One of the coolest things about this is that my life has been so enriched by all of you doing the things we love together and learning shit from each other. I’ve been camping dozens of times and to New York City dozens of times. I’ve played in bands with some of you and debated philosophy and politics with others. Some of you taught me practical skills about agriculture and construction, and I taught some of you about music and freedom. And we always had a good time, because if you can’t have fun living life, you’re doing it wrong!!!
Of my dozen or so “friends for life,” some I stay in touch with on a regular basis, typically in the form of almost daily or weekly emails to a group of us. However, there were times in the 40 years that I didn’t stay in touch with some of these people more than once a year or even every 5-10 years or so. Once we started yapping again, it was like the multi-year gap had never even happened and we picked up right where we left off. There are others who I’m in touch with only a few times a year or even every few years, but that doesn’t seem to matter either. The conversation flows right from the start, and a stranger listening in wouldn’t be able to tell how long it had been since we last talked.
What’s particularly interesting to me about this is that there were never any hard feelings on either side when long gaps in communication occurred. The close, lifelong connection was simply assumed, and nobody ever had an attitude about its relapse and recurrence in terms of actual communication. The fond memories were solid, and the heart connection was never in doubt in both our souls.
I actually have one friend that recently reached out to me that I met in the first grade, so my math says that’s over 50 years! I met Chris Monty in school, and within a few years my best early childhood friend became my nextdoor neighbor, much to our surprise and good fortune! We went to the same high school but drifted apart at that point somewhat (but not entirely—read “Learning to Drive in 1975”) because we met new (really additional) lifelong friends there and hung out with different crowds. We hadn’t stayed in touch literally for almost 40 years, and when Chris heard through the parental grapevine about my ALS condition, he reached right out to me and we’ve been sharing awesome childhood memories ever since.
We’re both over 55 now, and the last time we talked we were about 17. But it’s like time never passed, and Chris remembers our childhood with the same gratitude I do now. Talk about something to be grateful for! There isn’t any other person on earth I could share those really early memories with, and I’m so glad he reached out to me now. I have a couple of other friends who I hadn’t talked to more than a few times in the past 25 years make it a point to visit me from my hometown of Milwaukee recently. What’s been extra cool about this is that all of them reminded me of some more awesome shit I experienced decades ago that I had completely forgotten about! I’ve added a few new things to my list of gratitude stories, and I’ll do my best to get them out before I can’t type anymore, dammit!
What’s interesting (and sad really) is that I know plenty of people who don’t have a bunch of “friends for life” at all. We’ve had detailed discussions about it, and they seem incredulous as I talk about a dozen different people who live all over the country as they try to keep all the people I’m telling stories about straight in their minds. They typically have one or two close friends they’ve stayed in touch with regularly, or they quickly lose the connection with a former “best friend” when they get married, have kids, move, or some other life event.
When we get to that part of the conversation, it’s my turn to get incredulous as I question why they can’t just reconnect with that person after 5 years and start up right where they left off. My default position is that everyone does that, but that apparently is not the case! They usually look at me funny as though I’m crazy and utter some bromide about how friendships require constant “maintenance,” and there simply isn’t enough time for all those friends when you’re married, have kids, move, etc. I’m no psychologist (though I try to act like one sometimes!), but it seems to me that many people may not be focusing on the joyful experiences they had together and instead falling into what I would call the high-maintenance “what have you done for me lately?” mental trap. I had never really thought too much about this until I started writing about life a couple of months ago to keep my sanity, but I hope some of you think about this stuff and how it relates to the people in your life. I’ll be honest here–There are a few of my lifelong friends I lost some touch with in recent years, but we did our best to reconnect, and I think we have. And I’m very happy about that!
And please don’t think any of this takes away from the gratitude I have for those of you I’ve only known for a mere 10 or 20 years—Hahahaha! I love you all as well, and I’ve talked about how grateful I am to all of you for helping me through my life right now—I literally wouldn’t be here without you. It’s just that our relationships are much more recent and we can actually remember most of our shared experiences, we still live in the same town, and we’ve seen each other with some regularity at work particularly or at least at the occasional party, etc. (Or you are one of many who have offered to help me, and there isn’t enough that I need to go around. As I said in my opening message, my situation with all of you being there for me is the definition of a “good problem!”) And when I first started writing this essay I was only thinking about “friends for life” as people I had known since childhood to age 25 or so, but maybe that’s not the right way to think of it either…
Writing about shit definitely makes you think long and hard about it; I’ve learned something else about life and about myself, and that’s a good thing. Here’s a text thread I had with my friend Jean that inspired this post. Life is all about perspective and I’m doing my best to learn that…
Peace and Love,
Of course, a lot of we friends for life are pictured throughout various sections of my blog, but I’ll throw in a few more just for good measure (and because they’re funny!)