How great is it to have friends? This is essential to having a full life. I recently received a birthday card from one of my friends that I have known for 60 years. Yes, 60 years! This wasn’t the only birthday card I got from someone I have known for that same amount of time. One thing I know about these ladies is that if I met them for lunch today we would be right back 60 years ago to our old selves laughing and hugging and having great conversations about our lives and life in general. It has been many years since I have seen a lot of my friends but we keep up with birthday and Christmas wishes. When we do talk or see each other it is as if time has stood still and we are once again having a wonderful time and yes, we often giggle. Who knows you as well as a childhood friends, a few family members, maybe, but maybe your friends know you ever better than your family… because, friends choose each other. We have the same interests. We have lived through happy and sometimes sad times. We usually have the same scene of humor. There are times when I will think about our past visits that were more than 35 or 40 years ago, when something happened during these visits that made us laugh. Just thinking about a certain occasion from the past will still make me laugh out loud.
I have a friend who lives far away from me. We have known each other since we were about 11 or 12 years old. Every once-in-a-while I will get a call from her and we talk for at least an hour or two. We keep up with our lives, our children and our families. It is so wonderful to be able to vent. Yes, we talk about our losses. She still has a parent that is alive. We get to discuss the issue of having a parent who needs her. I get to talk about the pain of losing not one, but, both of my parents and my dear little sister. After each phone call I feel like a large boulder has been lifted from my shoulders. What a joy to have such a dear friend. There is also a friend who lives on the other side of the country. We became friends when our children entered kindergarten together. She calls me regularly to discuss my life and how I am doing. She will not talk about herself. I try, but she just wants to know that I am alive and well and somehow negotiating life, now, as a single woman on my own. She worries if I am able to pay my bills and still keep going. She also, always sends me books and gifts to cheer me up. I have sent her a few gifts too but she gets angry with me for spending any money on her. She is a treasure.
The Death of a Friend
The sad part of friendship is when some friends have disappeared due to life changes and of course moves and children and marriage. This happens and I will miss these friends. The very hardest part is the death of a friend. I lost one of my dearest friends twenty-five years ago and frankly I haven’t gotten over it to this day. We met when we were both students at University in London however, I didn’t meet him until we both were on a student group Spring Break trip to the Soviet Union. It was in 1974. He was nearly seven feet tall and he wore a fur coat and boots with a bit of a heel on his boots that made him even taller. To this day he was the funniest person I have ever met. We became acquainted standing in line waiting to see Lenin who was and probably is still to this day, in a coffin under glass in a formal building in Moscow. The line stretched out for what seemed like several blocks long. As we waited in line my new friend kept me entertained with a constant brilliant conversation that kept me doubled over in what would turn out to be painful laughter. We would laugh so hard and so long that my sides and stomach hurt. I was using laughter muscles that had never been used to this extent before. We laughed through, Moscow, Leningrad, on the train to Kiev and all the way back to London. Our friendship lasted to London and beyond. He went back to the U. S. to finish college in Iowa. I finished college in Europe but we wrote and saw each when I would visit my home in Chicago. After college we kept up and visited often. He eventually moved to Chicago and later we worked together for a few years at the same business. His friendship was steadfast. He planned a great surprise for me to celebrate my birthday. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going. Told me to get dressed up. He drove a long way outside of Chicago. He knew my favorite singer was Johnny Mathis and there we were in front of a theater with two fabulous seats to a Johnny Mathis concert and later to a dinner at a French restaurant. I introduced my friend to all of my friends and to each boyfriend to get his approval. You might have guessed by now that my beloved friend was gay. He was tall and handsome and a dear, dear, man. Our friendship lasted through my marriage. I received a letter from him when I lived in Europe and as usual it was hysterically funny. In this letter he told me he had AIDS. At this time AIDS was a death sentence. My husband and I moved back to Chicago and I had my firstborn son. My friend and I would see each other often and when life was hard for both of us we would talk on the phone. He was always funny and in the darkest of times he still made me laugh. I visited him in the hospital many times and I won’t go into how difficult this was. He didn’t even resemble the handsome man I knew. This was still a time when people were deathly afraid of this illness and no one knew how you even acquired this disease. His family was afraid to visit him. Finally his mother came to see him and his two sisters visited him right at the end of his life. He died. I still love him and I still miss him and I still think of him. I can still hear his funny jokes and thinking about our conversations still makes me smile. How lucky I was to have him as a friend.
To all of my friends past and present, thank you for being my friend and thank you for making life so much better and so much fun.
Until Next Week…