Old Friends

If you are lucky, and I mean really lucky, you have a friend you haven’t seen in a long time with whom you pick up where you left off as if it were just yesterday. One of my friends like that just visited me for a few days and little in our friendship had changed. Oh sure we had a few more pounds between us and our hair was grayer, retreating, or both, but the core of our friendship was as strong as ever. If you have spent time in the foxhole of undergraduate college together, supporting each other from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as old Will Shakespeare once said, you form a bond that time doesn’t break. Whenever you interact you slip into those old relationships like a comfortable, well worn shoe. My wife used to say she could always tell when I was talking on the phone with him because all the diction and polish would disappear and I sounded like that naive kid from New York again rather than the worldly professor I presented to others.

Sure, we reminisced and many sentences began with “remember the time we…” or “remember so and so or such and such,” but that wasn’t the totality of our conversation.  Memory being among the first casualties of old age many times we could not recall names or incidents that were seared into the memories of the other. We had progressed from the callow youths we were when we first met into grizzled old veterans of life with many experiences, places, people, and lessons along the way. We told stories of our travels, things we had done, people we had met. We talked about growing older, raising kids, (and now grand-kids,) things in hindsight we should have done differently, failures and successes and everything in between, situations we had been lucky to emerge from alive, scars we still bore. We spoke about current things too: difficulties we were facing, aches and pains, how the world is going to hell (a common topic among old folks,) losses we were facing or about to face, and plans for the future. We saw the film “Black Panther” together through the same sixties radical lens and were amazed by it as a film, but distressed a bit by its politics. In fact its director, Ryan Coogler, and my son were at the University of Southern California film school at the same time and I was reassured that at least one of them was now able to repay his student loans. We had excellent meals (2 of them prepared by my son who loves to cook and is very good at it) and at some of my favorite restaurants nearby. As I was dropping him off at the airport for his flight home I told him I was going to the gym right afterward he said “Well, you earned it.” We ate well.

What I take from the experience of this visit is that we are never truly alone. There are people in the world who just “get us” even if we are not in constant contact with them. In times of loss and when despair threatens we should never lose sight of that fact. I hope you all have such friends because they are what allows us to get through this thorny world.

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