So yesterday, I got a text from my best friend from high school. He’s still one of my best friends. He’s definitely one of two people who have made it from youth into middle age with me, friendship still squarely in tact despite life and time and distance. I met him when I was 13, and that makes damn near 28 years of friendship now. So even though most of the time, I don’t feel ‘old,’ in general, and with him in particular, I still feel about 15…well…time to face reality…we’re ‘old friends.’
He’s one of the people I personally reached out to when our dog died in April. And I didn’t reach out to many people personally. I never do, but hell…then? It was only seven other people total…and four of those people were J and The Boy (she was their dog too) and my parents (who stayed with The Boy so J and I could deal with sad veterinary medical decisions).
My high school best friend was there for me, in a way that nobody else, not really even J, could be there for me. He had that long history of, ‘No, you can’t have a dog,’ in his own living memory, not just in my retelling. The two of us have a lot in common, family history wise. His perspective is more similar to mine than J’s is, in a lot of ways. And then, oddly and terribly, his own dog passed away a few weeks later in a similar fashion and he reached out to me. I hate that he had to, obviously. But I’m glad that he did. It’s a blessing to have an old friend actually last through all of the myriad of shit life throws at us to where we are now. He’s been present for some of the worst times of my life and I’ve trusted him with experiences and thoughts and feelings I don’t share with very many other people, from the issues of teenage life through parenthood and career and marriage and middle age. There are some things about me he knows that ONLY J knows. We’ve been through a lot together.
He lives kind of far away now…I mean, not in Australia or anything, but far enough away that we can’t just casually meet up for pizza on a weekend or get our families together to go to a baseball game. One of the things he texts me for is when he’s coming into town (because he knows and understands that I barely leave the house…and even kind of why) so that we can hopefully make plans to see each other. So I perked up a bit at the text alert on my phone yesterday when I saw it was not only from him but began with the words, ‘I’ll be in town later today…’
That’s all the alert showed me without opening the text. But when I opened it up, the rest of the message was, ‘…but I’m afraid the reason isn’t good: my mom had <unexpected health problem> and passed away last night.’
So of course, I was immediately and terribly sad for my damn near lifelong friend; a person who has been there for me at times when no one else was (he’s known me a lot longer and through more stuff than J has), a person who understood me when no one else seemed to (sometimes even including J). I told him I was here if he needed me. I told him I’d be at the services and to please let me know those details. He said he would and he said he felt old. And kind of like it hasn’t really sunk in that it’s real. And then, because I’m That Annoying Optimist, I told him that I was honored to be there for him and grateful that I had a friend, even after all this time, that felt like he could turn to me when he needed a friend.
He wrote this to me 24 years ago in a high school yearbook…
“I never know what to say in yearbooks. Everything seems so trite and overused. I wish that there was a less cliched way to tell people what you need to tell them. Thanks for always being there for me – through the good times, the bad times, and especially the confusing ones (lately). I can’t thank you enough for being such a great friend, and someone I can tell anything to and trust. It’s rare that you find someone in this world that you can trust with anything, but it’s people like you who prove the exception. You’ve been a great friend, and I hope that your future goes well. Keep in touch when we all go away to college, and never forget that I’m here for you when you need me. (Sorry I used so much room). Love, <My Old Friend>”
That last sentence outside of the parentheses was so moving at the TIME that I cried. It’s even more moving NOW, because…well…
I’ve written before about how I have an affinity for words and that I remember people’s words very vividly. I remembered those. For 24 years. He meant them.
I know I write here often about how J is a singular presence in my life and that’s true, romantically, for sure. But there have been a couple of other people I maybe have discounted and edited down or out of my life here on my blog to promote my romantic fiction and fawn about my husband who have given and do still give me real love in exactly the way I need to receive it.
My high school best friend is one of these rare people. He called me rare in what he wrote, but…he’s rare too.
John Green, in his novel, The Fault in Our Stars, wrote this exchange…
I keep my promises. That’s how I show love. And my old friend kept his promise too. One he made 24 years ago…one he probably didn’t understand when he was making it. What 16 year old really understands the bigness and permanence of the word ‘never’ or what kind of serious need a long future might send his way? And who even really means anything they write in a high school yearbook? But he did mean it. He kept that promise anyway.
I just wanted to write a post about how grateful I am that I’ve made some real gems of friends in my life, and some of them are still sparkling after a long time.