My current closest friends probably think I’m a decent friend, but my skills in maintaining a friendship pale in comparison with those of my high school buddy Jim.
From senior year in high school through two years past college, we were inseparable. We spent lots of time drinking and talking about important stuff like girls and growing up. Jim seemed to have a way with the girls because he had many girlfriends during that time period. I seemed to know how to keep relationships going longer because I only had two during that five or six year stretch. In the decades since, things may have reversed.
I always thought Jim should have been a writer. He has a wicked sense of humor and a knack for story-telling. He has a college degree in English and a hell of an imagination. But he spent most of the past three decades working as a letter-carrier for the post office.
Over the years since I moved away from New Orleans, Jim and I probably haven’t seen each other ten times. But he sends me a Christmas card and a birthday card every year. In fact, he has not missed one single year in more than thirty. I’ve missed at least three fourths of those years. Most of the cards are humorous and he adds more humor with hand-written updates about his life. I can count on at least one corny but hilarious joke in each card. And Jim finally discovered email this year so now I get examples of his observations and story-telling every few weeks.
In the first half of the email I got today, he told me his Dad died. In the second half he shared the progress he and his wife have made with their diets.
That combination of disparate stories is no surprise to me. What did surprise me was the eloquent way he told the story of his Dad’s last days and his own reactions and feelings about their final conversations. I so often remember Jim as the witty party animal from back in the day that I forget that he has a caring, sensitive side and an incredible mastery of the words to express it.
I am somewhat emotional about this tonight because I wonder what our friendship would be like if I had done a better job on my end. It is the kind of friendship in which we would have shared milestones over the years; we would have debated the meaning of life like we did in high school through the filter of life experiences along the way. We would have talked about girls. We might have argued about music or whether or not Diana Rigg, that hot babe from British TV spy series The Avengers, had aged well. If I called him nine years ago when I was in town to be with my own Dad during his last two days, Jim would have been there too. I didn’t call.
You just don’t get friends like that every day.
If any of my current friends wonder why I get a little obsessive about keeping in touch at times, this post might help explain it a little. And any current friends who don’t think I keep in touch enough, tell me.
Oh, while I'm thinking about it, here are two pictures of Diana Rigg. Did she age well?