I grew up thinking the word “friend” was a noun, something you have if you’re lucky. It turns out it’s a verb! In today’s world, people go online and “friend” each other. If only it were that easy.
Not only can you “friend” people on Facebook, but you can also “unfriend” them. You can even download an app to end a romantic relationship and get rid of the entire detritus – photos, past posts, the whole works. I suppose it makes sense. Lots of relationships begin online, so why not end them there?
My father told me a long time ago that it’s a lot easier to lose a friend than it is to make one. He understood the gift of friendship and taught me to hold my friends close.
At this time of year I think a lot about my father, who died 58 years ago Christmas Day. He told me that “you can count your friends on one hand.” I probably didn’t understand what he meant, but I do now. He was talking about those few people who accept you as you are, and who would do just about anything for you if you asked – and towards whom you feel the same way. I’m not sure I have a full handful of such people in my life, but I have some, and the older I get the more important they are to me.
I was at a conference in London this fall and met a woman from Indianapolis. I asked her if she knew my college and law school friend and her fellow Hoosier, Ted Boehm, whom I haven’t seen in many years. She said that she did and that, since retiring from the Indiana Supreme Court, he has returned to the practice of law.
A few days later, that woman sent me Ted’s email address. I wrote to him, shared a few updates, and mentioned that I only have one wedding gift from my first marriage, 54 years ago. It is a tray he gave us. And I asked whether he had remained in contact with our mutual good college friend, Dave Fischer, whom I last saw 55 years ago.
Ted wrote back and said he hadn’t maintained contact with Dave until three years ago when they spent an evening together in San Francisco, where Dave now lives after a long career in the Foreign Service. Ted provided me with Dave’s email address.
So I sent an email to Dave, a voice from his distant past. I didn’t try to cover five and a half decades, but I did tell him I was coming to San Francisco a week after Thanksgiving to see my grandson (and my daughter and daughter-in-law), and that I would like to see him.
Dave replied, and we made a date to meet at his house. Needless to say, neither of us would have recognized the other. We talked there for a few minutes and then spent two hours over lunch at a nearby restaurant. I asked whether my email had taken him by surprise, and he said that it did. I explained that I decided a while ago to try and re-connect with people who have been important to me at some point in my life.
I recalled a meaningful conversation we had when he was a college senior and I was a junior. I was half way through when he finished for me, reciting the rest of the conversation exactly as I remembered it.
Then I brought up the time he came home with me for Thanksgiving, in November of 1960. Dave says it never happened; he’s never been in Claremont. One of us is wrong, of course, but I have no way of knowing whether it’s him or me. I guess I will just live with uncertainty, which is no big deal.
Then Dave told me that he only has one wedding present left from his long ago wedding to Pam – silver nut dishes from Firestone and Parson, my uncle’s store in Boston. “You gave them to us,” he said.
I don’t remember giving that gift, but on this point I defer to my friend Dave. Yes, he is still my friend, still an important person in my life, someone I want to keep close.