Some Friendships Are Timeless & Some…Aren’t

I was about 350 miles into a 500-mile day when I decided I needed to grab a cup of coffee and stretch my legs.

The Starbucks whose sign I saw off of the freeway looked like as good a place as any to rest as did the sound of a red cup filled with 983 ounces of Peppermint Mocha and a couple of espresso shots.

Grabbed a table in the back where I could drink in peace and do some people watching. Didn’t take more than few minutes for a couple of women to grab the table next to mine.

Took them all of thirty seconds to start a conversation about the men in their lives and for me to realize how much some things have changed since I was in my twenties.

It is not just because my first thought regarding Tinder is that it is something I would use to build a fire either.

Nor is it because I didn’t use Google to try to determine if I wanted to date someone or not.

Mainly it is because listening to them talk reminded me that I stopped thinking like someone who is childless a million years ago.

Men & Women Are Different

When I stopped my intention hadn’t been to become a witness to the complete dissection of some men and how they interact/engage with women or to be reminded about how different we are either.

But the 18 inches between our tables made it impossible not to overhear their stories and since I wasn’t engrossed in my phone something one of them said caught my ear.

I couldn’t repeat it verbatim or tell you why it got me thinking, I just know that it did.

It was something to the effect of “you always know a lot from the first time a guy kisses you.”

That was enough to make me curious enough to wonder what it was they were talking about but not enough to interrupt their conversation to ask what it is you know after that kiss.

I thought about the stories the guys and I have exchanged over the years ab0ut women but I couldn’t think of a time when we had ever focused the way these women appeared to on kissing.

That didn’t mean no one ever mentioned it, but it was always in passing and never a focal point.

Most of those conversations ended years ago because once everyone got married no one spent much time sharing those kinds of details anymore.

It didn’t really resume after the divorces started to hit either, it was just something left behind.

But listening to these women next to me speak and thinking about some other conversations I have heard I figure that the dissection of men that women sometimes engage in never ends.

That might be right, might be wrong don’t know that it really matters.

best friend
Two-thirds of the way into my coffee the women moved from men into a discussion about breaking up with friends. That one really made me think a bit.

In part it was because I received a Facebook notification about some pictures one of the guys had posted.

He had just come back from a long vacation but I had no idea he had gone on one. Hell, I didn’t have a clue if that was the first or 987th one he has taken this year, last year or the year before.

Kind of made me sad to realize that I don’t know much about what he is doing now because there was a time when he was one of the closest friends I had.

Thirty some years of friendship and we are not exactly strangers but we aren’t particularly tight anymore either.

He never got married and never had kids so there are areas of life that our very different and since we no longer live in the same city the distance plays a role too.

We usually grab a beer when he is in town and hang out a bit, but those visits aren’t a yearly thing.

For a while I made a point to call or email on a regular basis. Whenever we connected he was present and everything felt normal, but somewhere along the way I got tired of feeling like it always  had to be me to make the effort to stay in contact.

So I stopped and here we are.

Some Friendships Are Timeless & Some…Aren’t

Two weeks ago my son asked me if he could make plans with a friend for Thanksgiving break.

“Dad, Tom and his family are coming back for Thanksgiving. I want to make plans to see him when he gets here.”

“How long has it been since they moved away?”

“Almost a year.”

“Call him and see about setting up a time to hang out.”

“I’ll try, he is not good about calling back. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesnt.”

That led into a longer conversation about friendship and a comment from me about how some friendships are timeless and some aren’t.

Who knew a short time later I’d repeat what I said to him to me.

Words Can Scar, Maim & Murder

Confession: I always tear up at that scene…always.

Maybe it is because I have had the privilege to have the kind of friendships that people write, want and dream about. Maybe it is because I also know the pain of losing one of those friends.

Friendship is a big deal to me, always has been. Flip through the pages here and you will find more than a few posts in which I talk about it. Some of those posts are my reflections on what it means to bury a friend and some are about conversations I have had with my children about friendship.

There posts are among the most well trafficked and most popular here. Maybe it is because they touch upon something that we can all relate to and or understand.

I suppose if someone were to ask for help in understanding who I am I might point them towards those because they have meaning that is useful personally and professionally.

What Kind Of Friends Did Robin Williams Have?

Robin Williams was one of my favorite actors and comedians. His death is tragic and the sun will shine a little less brightly with his loss.

Since the news broke the Internet has been filled with clips and quotes of, about and from him. One in particular has been getting a lot of play. It is a quote from a character he played in a movie  World’s Greatest Dad.  

Lance Clayton: I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.

People keep sharing it because it is heartbreaking and I suspect more than a few of us have been in positions in which we can relate to it, be they brief or long.

I have been thinking about it because it reminded me of something that happened to me several years ago. A dear friend of mine told me that someone else described me as “sucking the life out of the room.”

I won’t lie and say it didn’t hurt me because here I am years later wondering who said it about me and why they didn’t talk to me because if I ever felt that way about a good friend I’d want to go talk to them. I’d want to find out what was bothering them.

I’d want to ask if they were hurting. I’d want to ask if they were angry, sad or upset and try to figure out if I could do something to help them.

There might not be anything that could be done. They might not be willing to change or to help themselves but maybe they would. Either way I would know I had been the kind of friend I want my children to be.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not indicting Robin Williams’ friends or saying they were bad because I don’t know. I am just relating a personal experience and wondering out loud about it. It is entirely possible he never shared anything that would have alerted those friends to what he intended to do.

Words Can Scar, Maim & Murder

A good friend called me from Israel. He checked in to let me know he and his family are ok. We shared some stories and laughed hard about all sorts of things.

He asked me how I got such a thick skin and said he wished he could say anything to anyone and not care what they think. I shared the story above and said my skin isn’t always as thick as some people might think. We promised to always be willing to check in and be honest with each other.

I appreciate that but I am not surprised after more than 30 years and more than a few adventures our friendship is deep.

Most of the time I don’t think about or wonder who said those other words but every now and then they creep up and I just shake my head.

I shake it because I want one thing for my children and for me. I want the sort of friendships I see in that video clip. Whenever the end of our days come I want to say we lived both the breadth and depth of life and I want our friends to hear/say something like below.

Spock: I have been and always shall be your friend.

If we can do that, well we will have done something with our lives.

The In Between Place

Lonely man

I made them cry, not him or her but them. You can tell me it wasn’t my fault or that it is not my responsibility but I won’t accept it.

That is because I was the one who made the telephone calls. I was the one who called our friends and told them you were dead.

Some of them screamed and some of sniffled in silence but I heard their voices and we shared the pain of your loss.

Today is your birthday or should I say it would have been. I don’t have a clue what you would have done for this one or where you would be living.

Maybe you would be married and maybe you would be a father. It is a relatively easy guess to make and probably not far off of the mark.

Instead of writing to you and wondering if somewhere you can hear, see, feel or read this I would call you and make some crack about how old you are. You’d give me some sort of sarcastic response and I’d tell you about my family.

It wouldn’t be the first time. I have visited your grave and sat next to you. I have told you about your funeral and how very blue the skies were. It was hot that day and not just because we were wearing black suits.

Nor was it because we buried you.

That has always been important to me. We buried you because you were loved by your friends. We buried you because it was among the last kindness we could bestow directly upon you.

Every year I remember the moment when I saw your mother’s face while I was shoveling dirt on your casket. It was horrifying then and as a father it is only made worse.

Yet there is a piece of me that smiles because I know you would have done the same for me and because I know your parents appreciated it. I know that in this moment of utter horror they knew that people who cared about you were doing our best to help.

We would have done more. We wanted to. Had we known earlier we could have helped carry the load. You knew more than us. You knew this was coming sooner but didn’t say.

Perhaps it was your choice, but we would have listened. We would have shared more with you during a time when we could both communicate.

Life is pretty good now. It has its challenges but that is to be expected. I keep tabs with your siblings and your parents. They are good too.

I don’t regret having had to make those calls or having been a part of the merry men of grave digging. Shit happens and we deal with it.

You are gone but not forgotten. You helped change more lives than you know and that is a legacy to be proud of.

Happy Birthday old friend, I’ll see you again.

 Linked To YeahWrite.

The Kind Of Friend You Want To Be

Friends

Sometimes I am guilty of trying to write the kind of post that makes you cry, but not always. There are other moments that I try to write something inspirational and or humorous.

Those are moments that I try to avoid because they usually don’t produce the results I want. It is like trying to force a feeling. I can’t make you love me and even if I could that is not how I want to be.

My best moments in writing come when I just let myself be and I write about whatever it is I am writing about.

It reminds me of friendship. It reminds me of remembering not to try too hard because the people that like us will do so because of who we are and not because of what we have.

Dad’s Words of Wisdom

It is a discussion I have had more than once with the children. We talk about what is going on in school and sometimes I hear stories about mean girls and boys who aren’t nice.

I tell the children to try to be the kind of friend you want to be. These aren’t just words to me or something you say out of obligation. I mean them.

In part it is because I have been very fortunate to have some of the best friends a person can have. I have blogged about them before, some recent and some less so. One day my children will read this blog and posts like What Kind of Friend Are You? will help reinforce what I am talking about, but that is years down the road.

These discussions have to happen now. I can’t shield them from everything and life forces you to confront the end of their innocence at a pace that isn’t always in sync with when you would choose to make the change.

I suppose it is part of why I write letters to my children.

Be Your Own Advocate

When I talk with the kids and friends about the rules of the game I often mention the need for us to serve as our own advocates. If we don’t do it then who will.

But the question is how to do it in a fashion that isn’t obnoxious but is still effective. I don’t know that I have an answer for that. It is a subjective question. It is something we all have to figure out how to do.

It is part of why I blog. It is part of how I figure out what is important and necessary. It is part of how I determine what direction I wish to take and what pace I wish to walk or work at.

My Friends Read My Blog

Very few of my real life friends read this blog. In part that is because I have kept it away from most of them, but that is not what this is about.

This is about the lesson I have learned about being the kind of friend I want to be online as well as offline. This is about acknowledging that I have made many friends online and although we don’t hang out in person we meet here with more regularity than I get to see those real life friends.

That doesn’t take anything away from them. It is part of the nature of this online world we walk around in. It is easy to meet here. It is like being back in school. It is a central gathering place that we can hit.

So when I say my friends read my blog I can do so with complete honesty. I can say I am trying to be a good friend online and offline. I am trying to be the kind of friend I want for me and for my children.

When I opened my eyes possibilities turned into opportunities and I am glad to share it with you.

This post is part of Yeah Write #66 one of my favorite writing communities.

What Kind Of Friend Are You?

Kirk: Spock!
Spock: The ship… out of danger?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…
Kirk: …the needs of the few…
Spock: …Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
Spock: I have been and always shall be your friend.
[Holds up his hand in the Vulcan salute]
Spock: Live long and prosper.
Star Trek- Wrath Of Khan

Some of you may not appreciate those final moments in the movie clip above but they are significant to me because they speak of a different sort of friendship. They remind me that there are friends that are important to us and there are friends we love.

It resonates with me more strongly now because within the past few weeks death has taken the fathers of two people that are dear to me. Distance and circumstances prevented me from being at the one service but I won’t miss the second.

G and I met on the first day of kindergarten. It was 1974 and dressed in our finest pairs of Toughskin jeans we started our reign of terror or  tried to. We spent so much time hanging out together it is fair to say that all four of our parents had some sort of role in helping to raise us but now that group is one short.

We lost G’s dad last Friday courtesy of Parkinson’s old age and related infirmities. It happened a bit sooner than anyone expected but I am not sure that matters all that much because most of us never want to say goodbye to our parents.

Parents Are Role Models

I hadn’t thought about it much until recently but G is an awful lot like his father. Not really a shock or surprise to say that, just a reminder of the influence we have on our children. Just a reminder that when I try to teach my children about what kind of friend they should be they’ll watch what I do now.

This is important to me for a bunch of reasons. It is important because G is like a brother. I love that old bastard and still want to kick his ass for moving cross country. It is important because his father meant something to me too. It is important because I want my children to understand that being a good friend means there are times where you drop what you are doing and lend a hand.

It is a topic that the children and I have discussed on more than one occasion. They remember that at G’s wedding I pushed his father’s wheelchair down the aisle. My daughter wanted to know if that meant that I was a nurse and I told her that it meant that his family trusted me to take care of their dad.

Aging is a funny thing.  G’s parents used to own a bunch of rental properties. I have a lot of memories of helping G and his dad fix them up in between tenants. It is fair to say that my own father and G’s dad taught me quite a bit of what I know about tools and how to use my hands to fix things.

So it was pretty surreal to see him in that wheelchair but I never thought twice about giving him a hand. I am sorry for G, his mom and his sister’s loss because their dad was a good guy. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I’ll miss him too.