Old Friends are precious commodities that never wear out, and should never be thrown away. No matter how long it’s been since you’ve last talked or gotten together, it doesn’t seem to matter when you reconnect. This week an old friend that I hadn’t seen in close to thirty years showed up on my doorstep. After an initial hug and the ritualistic, “how have you been?,” we picked up the conversation and talked for hours. It was as if we had never been apart, we shared memories, up dates on friends, and when you get to be our age talk eventually turns to the friends who have passed away.
Yes, we are older and I would hope a little wiser, but anyone listening to us over dinner the other night might think differently. My friend and I have both gone through a lot during the intervening years since we last met. We both have gone through illness, separation from the jobs we loved, spiritual struggles and a host of major and minor struggles that we can now look back on with a lot less intensity than when we were living them. He’s lost weight and I’ve gained weight. And there is nothing like meeting up with a friend from your younger days to kick-start you into the reality that you really do look older than you did thirty years ago. Somehow when you grow older the mirror, yes it is the mirror’s fault, tricks you into believing, “you don’t look that much older,” than when you were twenty.
I’ve often wondered if there is a better word than, “old” when describing a long ago friend. Maybe, a good friend from the past is like what Albert Schweitzer said, “In everybody’s life, at some time, the inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” I think that’s a nice way of saying a good friend does that for you. When you meet, regardless of the years that have separated you, there is a spark of recognition of shared past experiences, places, people and attitudes that burst into flame again and take you back to a forgotten time in your life and recreates lost memories. As in the case of my friend showing up, those memories were made of laughter and fond remembrances.
I know for some folks past memories are not filled with pleasant thoughts and stories of wonderful friends and crazy antics. For many people the past is filled with pain, dread and a deep desire to move on and let everything from the past go. Friends from the past were few and far between, but that is why they are all the more precious. Plutarch wrote thousands of years ago, “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change, and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” It’s true; as Len Wein says, a friend “is someone who is there for you when he would rather be somewhere else.”
My mother passed away a few years ago and at the funeral an old friend walked up to me and gave his condolences. I was stunned that this friend, from out of my past that I hadn’t seen in close to forty years, would come to my mom’s funeral. After the funeral as we sat talking, we drew out of each other stories that were still vivid in our shared memories. We remembered details of events that seemed so unimportant at the time, but are now part of a wonderful memory bank of youth spent playing baseball, trading hockey cards, riding bicycles and playing road hockey every afternoon after school. My encounter with this old friend set all those wonderful memories soaring through my mind and helped me through a very sad unpleasant day.
I have a friend who has been my close friend for thirty-five years. For many years we hardly spent a day that we didn’t talk or hang out together. At one point we even lived next door to each other. We don’t talk nearly as much now, and I am ashamed to admit we seldom get together, but when we pick the phone up and talk our relationship is as natural and honest as it could be possibly be. The reason, we are old friends and comfortable with each other and trust each other and have the best interest of each other in our hearts. My sister has a friend who has been as close as a sister to her for close to fifty years and they still never run out of things to talk about. Oliver W. Holmes once wrote something like this, “lucky is a man who has one good friend in life, but blessed is the person who has two.”
Go pick up that phone and give an old friend a call. Reconnect with your past, catch up on the present and make plans for the future. All this talk about friendship reminds me that Ruth and I are going to be in Oshawa in September. I will let you know what time I’m speaking and where on the next post and on Facebook. For Ruth and me it will be a wonderful time of renewing old friendships and hopefully making some new friends. We are really looking forward to seeing good friends again. Yes, I’ll look older than what you remember, and when you hear me speak you’ll probably go, no he’s no wiser than he use to be. But that’s all right because we will have lots of fun anyway and laugh the night away over Indian food. That’s friendship.