Friendship

Once I knew a woman who shortly after the first time we met said friends come to us for three reasons: for a season, for a reason or for a lifetime. What a load of crap. Of course it was a set-up, a hedge against the future, a way out opened up at the very beginning.

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Yet, there aren’t many lifetime friends, at least in my life. And some friends do come and go, sometimes with rupture, sometimes quietly, sometimes from inattention, time moving on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. Maybe it’s age. There are friends we have from our youth, from school days and college, sometimes from work, sometimes from shared interests, from shared fellowships. We inherit friends from our families; gain friends from partners, our children. Why some people move from acquaintances to friends isn’t often a mystery. Why they move from friends to the most essential people in our lives often is.

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In my life I have had two true, unconditional friends: one gone and one lost; both complicated and enriching at the same time. I’ve had a several close friends that couldn’t survive my former marriage, lost because of it. I have one close friend in my life today. I have three or four other friends whose friendship I would very much regret losing. I’m speaking here of male friends, guys with history, my own Spartan brigade, living in my self-defined circle of trust. I have two or three women friends, too. Both did survive that former marriage and deepened afterwards.

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But let’s add that up: ten in all, not all present. And of the group, I see only two on a reasonably regular basis. I’m not going to name names but each of my friends has played a role in defining the man I am, some more some less. I would not be who I am having never had the two great friendships in my life, distant though that they are. Their influence and importance, a product of time and place and circumstance, remains undiminished. Rarely a day passes when I don’t connect something I’m doing or thinking to one of them. They were early guides to life. I see much of the world through the lenses of their erudition, emotion and instruction. A legacy of the past into the present.

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I have a few friends whom I’ve known for more than sixty years, childhood friends who remain today, not closely, but with a lifetime of shared memories that can’t be duplicated. I wish I saw them more often. I have friends who were once close but for reasons unexplained, have left my life. I have college classmates who hold a special place in my life, sharing experience of a very special time. I count one among my closest friends.

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I have several friends with whom I feel a close bond, yet rarely see.  They live far away, in other countries.  Their friendship is as real to me as friends I see more frequently.

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New adult friendships are hard to form—real friendships, not the dozens of “friends” who inhabit our social nexus. These social friends are important, too; without them we would be awfully isolated, even lonely.

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I remember once on a flight from New York to Singapore sitting next to a guy and telling him my complete life story, every intimate, grisly detail. And he told me his. He knew more about me than 98% of the people I know. I never saw him again, and don’t recall a single detail of the conversation but that it happened. Was he a seventeen-hour friend?

 

I know the categories I create, the friendship buckets into which my friends fall. The delineations and distinctions are clear, based on shared experience, shared history, shared revelations.

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I no longer would want the level of intensity my old, close friendships offered. (I’m open to being surprised.) I have my wife and my sons and their families, and my few good friends—all sustaining and continuously enriching.

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Still, I wonder: are there new friends out there?

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1 Comment

  1. Ranie

     /  February 8, 2017

    Read this and made a lunch date with one of my oldest friends… Thanks Niland!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply

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