It is a rare thing in life to have a life long friend. In today’s world, it is easier to keep up with people. We have email, social media and cell phones. How many people will be there for you through thick and thin? It is probably very few if any at all. Family will almost always be there for you out of a sense of duty. Significant others will be there because they feel a strong attachment to you. But a life long friend will be there for no logical reason. They are not your blood, they are not so strongly attached to you that there is pain if you’re not around.
I am fortunate that I have brothers that I know that I can count on when push comes to shove. I am fortunate that I have a significant other that will be there and pick me up when I fall. She will not let me fail. She pushes me to be better than I am without pushing me away. I have a few friends out there that I can could call right now and they would do everything in their power to help. You guys know who you are and know that I am blessed to have you in my life, no matter where you are in the world right now. But I have one friend who has been there for so long.
In 1993, I moved to a new school. I went from a school district of 1500 students to a middle school (7th and 8th grade) with 1500 students. I went from a school where all but two guys played football to a school where there was a need for actual P.E. classes because not every guy played sports. To say it was intimidating would be an understatement. To make things worse, I changed schools in the summer between 7th and 8th grade. So I show up to a school where people already have formed cliques and friendships. That year I only made one friend but what a friend to make.
We had the last class of the day together. Were we ever opposites and still are to this day. He sat at the front of the class. Not just the front but at a table next to the front chalk board by himself. I sat in the back of the class or as close as I could get to it. I really don’t how or why we started talking to each other but one day we did. It was kind of funny because we were in middle school and we found that we had one thing in common. Something that old men would find out about each other. We both listened to Rush Limbaugh and had an interest in politics. I can assure you that it is ok now though, we don’t listen to him anymore. At that time, I think that was about it for us. Once again, we were opposites. He was a good student. I was the guy who said that I would not open my history book all year because I was going to prove the history teacher wrong. The first day of school the teacher said we could not pass the class if we did not open the book. I got an 80 something in that class. He still reminds me that I have authority issues.
That entire year in 8th grade, we would talk everyday and he would not say my name because he could not remember it. I knew his name. The next year in high school, we would sit together at lunch everyday. I don’t think we ever had another class together again. We may have but I can’t remember now. Throughout part of 9th grade, he still did not know my name. I really don’t know how or when he figured it out but he did at some point. He tells his students about it now days. In high school, I was the under achiever and he would be the diligent worker. He had an order to his room at home while I was and still am messy. We went to driver’s ed school together. His dad had already taught him how to drive. One could see the frustration he had when I would drive crazy. We would make it through high school and graduate together.
Right after high school, I would get married and leave for the army that summer. He was the best man at my wedding. He would go and see me off at 4am when my recruiter picked me up to take me to the MEPS. I still remember him driving next to us for a short bit. He would write me on a regular basis when I was in basic training. I was just reading some of those letters. They were so encouraging. Also kept me connected to the real world.
Through the years, I moved around. I even lived on another continent for year. I knew that I had a friend to call anytime that I needed. He was always my hero. He was busting it in college and being the good guy. I remember going to watch him walk the stage for his bachelors. He motivated me to get mine one day. Anytime that I would come home on leave, he and I would talk for hours. Then one day, I was out of the army.
The few years after the army, he and I did not hang out much. Yet, he was still there in the important times. Within months of me getting out of the army, my dad died. My friend for so long was there for me. He sat with the family at the funeral. He is family. He had even lived with my family for a short time while he was in college and I was in the army. I don’t know if he knows it or not but my dad thought highly of him. Another one of the other times that sticks out to me during that time was when we went to a football game. It was a six hour drive there both ways. Plus you have to count the three hours for game time. Plus we had to get there early like we do for all sporting events. It was an all day affair. I am so glad that we did that. The game sucked but we got to know each other so much better that day. We talked about everything. We did a few other things together here and there during those years but it was few and far between.
About two and a half years ago, I came to him with bad news. I was getting a divorce and my life was a disaster. He didn’t have to say anything. I could tell he did not approve. He still told me his thoughts and was honest how he felt about the situation. That still did not stop him being there for me. As I got back on my feet, I stopped calling and contacting him. That was wrong of me but he was such a good friend, I felt like I was making him choose between our friendship and his values. Getting a divorce was not in my plans and I knew it was wrong but at the time, I did not know where else to go. After probably a year, we started talking again and I hope that he understood where I was coming from. Not sure if he does or not but when it comes to our friendship that does not matter. We are committed to the friendship. We would go without talking again here recently. Mainly because we both stay busy.
Today was his birthday party. We have hung out a couple of times recently so its not like it has been months but it still had that feeling like it had been awhile. I got to meet his significant other. She is great and I hope they work because I can see the love there with them.
I don’t know what kind of friend he would consider me these days. He is my best friend. I have not been the best friend to him. I know we won’t always agree and I know there is more disappointment in the future. However, I also know that one of us will attend the other’s funeral one day and will laugh and cry with tons of memories.
I say all of that to say this. Find that person who has been a life long friend. The one who is there through thick and thin. The one who is not a yes man. The one who can tell you that you are wrong but will throw their arm around you and say “let’s attack this together”. That kind of friend is rare and is probably as unique as a snowflake.