Friends in far places - in 1000 Words or Less
A few years back, an individual told me, “The most interesting people I know, don’t watch TV.” I thought that an extreme statement. We’re living in the so-called Golden Age of Television. A person doesn’t have to look too hard (especially if he gets away from network TV and reality show garbage), to find excellent programs, no matter what his taste. But, I took his meaning…
…until he ruined it when he interrupted a different telephone conversation by saying, “I’ve gotta go. You’re interrupting my show.” He was talking about Survivor, of all things. My first (admittedly) overly-harsh thought was, If you’re going to be a hypocrite, you could at least do it while watching something decent. It’s difficult to make a point about how there are more productive and creative things to do in life if the TV is switched off, when you’re watching reality show garbage.
I had occasion to remember that conversation a month or two ago, when I caught up with some friends with whom I haven’t seen in a year or more. This is a couple I’ve known for thirty years. I consider them two of the most important people in my life. You know the kind of people I mean; they are the ones who make life better if for no other reason than they are part of it. I love how, thirty seconds after walking in the front door, we're all in the middle of the same conversation we didn’t have time to finish a year ago.
I’m pretty good at staying in contact, although despite my interest and determination, sometimes it doesn’t work…
Like the time my job took me to a city I don’t normally travel to, so I carved out a gap in the day to visit a person I hadn't seen in several months. Yeah, it was a pop-in. In my defense, I waited until a time when I assumed (based on past experience), he wouldn’t be busy. As it turned out, I was partially correct. His work day was over and he had some free time. It just wasn’t time he was willing to use in order to catch up with an old friend. His response to my visit was, “Too bad you didn’t tell me you were coming. We could have done something. Right now, I have to walk the dog.”
No shit, that was a kick in the groin with a steel-toed boot. It was also a clear indication of where I stood on his priority ladder.
Sometimes all a person can do is try, and hope for the best.
I’ve found friendships forged in the far north typically have a strong, enduring quality brought about by unfamiliar circumstances, distance from family, and shared situations uncommon to southern life. Unfortunately, after many years, one individual I know from the arctic has decided, as far as I can tell, that remaining in touch is not as high a priority as it may have once been. I don’t believe it’s personal; she’s virtually disappeared from social media and as an individual who encouraged me to join FB, I know she enjoys the medium. Hopefully, when her personal road smooths out, I’ll hear from her and we’ll pick up where we left off.
Often, “Time” is the excuse that prevents us from staying in better contact with those who are important to us, but Time as an excuse, cuts two ways. It can be a cop-out, an easy answer, a polite way of saying, “I don’t care. I can’t be bothered. I have time for either you or Survivor, and I’d rather watch Survivor.” Any kind of continuing relationship disappears with the texts they ignore, the emails they don’t answer and the calls they don't return. They use Time in the worst possible way, as a “polite” excuse when what they really mean is, “I’m just not that interested.”
On the other hand, Time as an excuse can be reasonable, valid and unbreakable. It’s life as we know it. It’s a one-word catch-all that says, “Kids, career, distance, health, family, travel (life-in-general, in other words), have all made staying in touch difficult and (for now at least), an in-person visit impossible.”
Adult friendships don’t typically end. Rather, they fade away with, yes, time. The ones that last are somewhat of a miracle. They last because everyone involved has decided, on one level or another, that they will last…
Like the enduring friendships I’ve somehow maintained with people I met in the fifth grade and still see frequently,
Or, the friend I’ve known for three plus decades, a guy who lived on the opposite side of the country, moved offshore with his family and has since returned, and who I’m blessed enough to see two or three times a year,
Or, the twenty-year relationship I have with a novelist friend, a person I met online in a critique group and who I’ve only seen once in person,
Or, a career ago, the guy who helped find me my first job, stood beside me at my wedding, and now lives less than a two hour drive away.
As for the couple I mentioned earlier, we haven’t actually spent a great deal of time together in past twenty years. A big part of the reason is distance—Canada is huge. Another reason is, they are active and involved and they do all the life-in-general stuff that makes existence worthwhile. I can’t imagine ever being blown off by one of these individuals, as I was by the guy watching Survivor, but if one of them said, “I’ve gotta go…” I’m reasonably certain the excuse wouldn’t be a television program. It would be more along the lines of, “…we’re catching a plane to Ireland for a family vacation,” which to my mind is not only acceptable, it’s wonderful.
We stay in touch because it’s worth it, because a text, email, FB message, or phone call don’t take much time or require much effort and means we’ll connect again for a party, a day skiing, or a Christmas dinner. When we do, hopefully they’ll have some photos of that Ireland trip to share. I can’t wait until that happens.
One of these times, we’ll talk a little more about using Time as an excuse.