It is really important to maintain friendships, I think. And I’m not very good at it.
When I was just a little lad, friendship was very difficult for me. I was an odd child, I’ve been told. Of course, I thought it was everyone else who was weird, at the time. But as I grew older, I discoverd it was I who had difficulty grasping the social norms and niceties. I got better at it, but more importantly, I came to accept who I was and who everyone else was, to a greater degree, and this made life easier.
Friendships now came fast and furious. In school, at work, in church, I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I’d sling the humor and the wackiness and the love, and it wasn’t long before I knew a lot of people everywhere I went. I’d bump into people in town, at the mall, at the bar, that I knew from somewhere. It’s actually kind of a street cred when people know you better than you know them. That’s right, I’m kind of a poor-man’s celebrity! Say hi, give the wave, move on. You’ll never run out of friends.
But then life got to be more work. You grow up a little more, change jobs, move, have a baby, and suddenly you realize that the guy you were such good friends with but always assumed was replaceable, turns out not to be as replaceable as you thought. Turns out you’re not the only special individual in the world- they’re all special individuals, and every friend you lose touch with is one particular kind of person that you’ll never meet again, and that you’ll miss.
So you learn to work at it. You learn to go out of your way (and where I live, that usually means an hour out of my way) to see people, to call people, to write an email. A guy who was a close friend before, that I worked with, that I had lunch with practically every day- now I’m lucky to have a beer with him twice a year. But it’s something.
There was a guy I went to school with at Case Western, a guy named Greg Smith. I put that in here in case he reads this. Greg, if you read this, drop me a line. Hopefully you’ve learned to use the Internet by now. You were terrible at it when I knew you, but that was 1993 after all. They didn’t even have blogs then, not really.
Anyway, Greg Smith was one of those real individuals. He was smart, he was hard-working, he was funny, he was a great musician and he was considering a triple-major in classic literature and ancient Greek and something else equally arcane, if I remember correctly. He was from someplace in Ohio like Akron and one of the best nights in my life was hanging out with him talking about theology on the tailgate of his Vista Cruiser and smoking awful 30-year old cigars that a professor gave me. Greg was also a lot better Christian than me, although I didn’t know it for a long time.
I transferred to a different school the next year, and just figured I’d meet lots of other people like Greg, so why bother keeping in touch? I think he even wrote me a letter, which I can’t remember whether I replied to or just lost. I was kind of a, well, something that might get this page locked out of a few filters if I told you, back then. I suppose it goes without saying that I never met anyone like Greg. I’ve taken a few stabs at locating him since then, without success. If only he had a name like Javier DeLonghi or something, it might be easier. But one of the most unusual people I’ve ever known had one of the most common names there is. Irony, I think, is the proper term for that.
Maintain friendships. It’s worth it.