Merrick, Long Island, NY, circa 1975. I am the one on the left, the other two were close friends in junior high and high school…I haven’t seen or heard from either one in decades…
Note: Wait a minute? Are you having a feeling of déjà vu and thinking to yourself, “Didn’t he already post this?” The answer is, “Yes and No!” After I originally posted Friends, a reader pointed out something objectionable in the blog post. I decided to take it down, remove the objectionable material and, while I was working on it, restructure it a bit. In some ways, the post had veered off in a different direction than I had intended, so I decided to try and put it back on track.
Here is Take 2!
Throughout our lives, we all befriend a lot of people, some of whom who just drift out of our lives as we get older and as we move in different directions, and some of whom stay close. This always makes me wonder about what makes someone a friend. Someone you know? Someone you know for a long time? Someone you feel close to?
I am an introvert. This does not mean that I am shy, or stand-offish. It does mean that I enjoy time by myself, prefer small groups to large groups, and I am a slow to get close to people. Because I tend to keep busy, and become active in organizations I join, over the years, I have come to know a lot of people in the area where I live. There are quite a few who I like, and who I suspect like me; but, are they friends?
In 2013/4014, when I was on the committee for my 40th college reunion, I contacted folks I had known at school. It was a fairly short list. One person I contacted was on the JV fencing team with me. He couldn’t make it to the reunion, but he lives nearby, and we made arrangements to meet for drinks and dinner. We both had a good time, so we got together again, nine months later, and then again nine months after that. On all occasions, I initiated the meeting. It has now been about six months, and I’m not sure I’m inclined to contact him again. I suspect that, if I did, he would be glad to get together, and we would have a good time, but sometimes I get tired of always initiating the action. He’s a nice guy, an interesting guy, and I like him, but he’s not really a friend; more an acquaintance. This is my story arc with most of the people I know, and I suspect others would tell me that this is what they experience as well.
There are some folks who I know for sure are friends. There are three guys in particular who I would like to mention, because I believe my relationships with them helped me to understand friendship.
My oldest friend was one of my college roommates, we have known each other for over 46 years. Even though he lives in North Carolina, we stay in regular contact and try to see each other a couple of times a year. I know that if I needed help from him, he would do his best for me, and if he called me for help, I would do everything in my power to be there. We have a certain closeness that is hard to describe, but is very real.
My next oldest friend moved to Hawaii a bit over a year ago. Before that we lived just a couple of miles apart. We had worked together since 1981 and have been friends for more than 35 years. Over those years, we have been there for each other, helping with problems, both personal and logistical, and just enjoying each other’s company. I visited him and his wife shortly after their move last year and will be visiting again in February. They visited Maryland last summer, so we had a midyear opportunity to see them and spend time together. We are both photographers and I believe that is just one more factor that will continue to bind us together, plus, who doesn’t like to visit Hawaii during a Maryland winter?
Finally, I have a third friend who still lives in the area. We worked together for many years and slowly became close over time. For part of my career I headed a group that performed acoustic testing on submarines and surface ships. He led the group that developed, built, and maintained our data acquisition and analysis equipment. This necessitated a close working relationship, one that was strengthened by similar world and management views. This working relationship became a friendship. He still lives close by. We get together regularly for lunch, dinner, movies, beer, Jewish Holidays, parties and sometimes just to talk (usually with beer). He always offers his help when needed, and he is a person I would go out my way to help.
As I have been writing this, I have thought about my other friends. There is a couple in the neighborhood, across the street, who I consider real friends. I have become very close with relatives who I accidentally discovered live in the area. There is a woman from college, who I knew-of back then, but didn’t know; we only became friends in the last few years after working together on our 40th reunion. Looking at this list, I feel grateful that I do have this many real friends.
So, here are some the things that I think make someone a friend. A friend contacts you to see how you are and if you would like to do something, they don’t wait to hear from you. A friend is someone who is willing to help you when needed, and someone you are glad to help if they call. A friend is someone who you can talk to freely and openly. A friend is someone with whom you enjoy spending time, and who you miss if you are not in contact for a while. A friend is someone you care about, and who cares about you. A friend is someone you trust.
That is my list, at least it is what comes to mind right now, I’m sure that, as I think about it, more will come to mind. What do you think?