As I arrived late to church last week I sat down at the back and just in front of me I noticed a man that from my vantage point looked like someone I had known a long time ago. Well, just briefly that is and only if I allowed myself to believe it. In truth he barely had a passing resemblance to an old fraternity friend that I haven't seen in about twenty six years. If I narrowed my eyes just so the illusion held for a few seconds until common sense prevailed and I realized that it wasn't him.
Still, the idea persisted in my head of what if it had been him? After all that time I knew that it was very likely that he wouldn't recognize me as I had changed greatly over all those years. Would he even remember my name? This is relevant because this person had been an alcoholic and the last time my best friend Tommy had seen him was just a few years after graduating college and this man had barely known who he was then. Even after prompting him with details he seemed disinterested at speaking with this person he had know day in and day out for several years.
The more I thought about the idea of friendship the more I thought about how it changes over time. Back in those college days I had more friends at one time than I ever had before but by the definition of the word a lot of them were in reality acquaintances. We spent a great deal of time around each other but we never really got to know each other. There was a certain core group of individuals to whom I was closer to and within that group another smaller one comprised of those that I would do just about anything for. With all of these groups I felt as if they were family to me. What can I say? I was young and unencumbered by the problems of life at that point.
As we all got older and graduated or (in my case) left school our lives changed. People moved away to other cities, other state and sometimes other countries. They got married, had children and started careers, not necessarily in that order. The more their schedules filled up with day to day minutiae of grownup life the less time there was for old friends and even less for old acquaintances. Without even realizing it we all left those who used to matter so much behind.
In this modern, brave new world it is much easier to keep in contact than it was back then but that comes at a price. Back then answering machines were not commonplace nor was caller I.D. so you had a better chance of reaching someone. Of course you had to call from a place that had an actual telephone, unlike today where people have the freedom to call from anywhere they want. Be it from their car, the store or even from their toilet. Strangely though even the practice of calling is changing depending on your generation.
Nowadays it's even more extremely convenient to simply send a text or an email to be read at the recipients leisure. Actual verbal contact isn't required at all. With that we pass from one era to another. There are things my son will never experience and some of that is good, some not so good. The thing is, we really can't do much about that. It's the way things are, the only thing constant is change and you either adapt to the world around you or stay where you are and grow stagnant.
So how can I sum up how I feel about my old friends? Some of them I am in constant contact with to this day. Some I see or call occasionally. Some I am friends with on Facebook. Some never respond when I leave them a message. Some are never seen or heard from again. And some have already departed. As we get older the last group will only get larger. Hopefully at some point we'll wake up and try and find the time to see each other even if it's only once or twice a year. Even more hopefully every once in a while we'll also make new friends that we will hold as dearly to us as we do the old.
Written and Published by Don Leach.
May not be used without permission from the author.