Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Tale of Two Friendships

WARNING: this may be a long post. To my friends with ADHD, try to follow along, and if you can't well, I love you anyways.

As we go through life, we often find ourselves with different sets of friends through each phase of life. You have the friends you went to school with, the friends you work with, the friends who grew up with you in the same neighborhood. Old friends, new friends, lost friends, ex-friends, and acquaintances. If you look at any given person's facebook profile, or email contact list, you may very well find hundreds of different friends. Along with family, that list probably contains a cross-section of people from every one of those categories. How you made friends with, or ended friendships with them varies as much as each individual person. I've had a lot of friends over the years, some I still see from time to time, others I haven't seen in years, and others yet that are friends almost strictly through the internet. You know the kind, people you interact with constantly online and get along well with. Enough so that if you actually met in person, you could go have a beer with, or coffee or soda for you non-drinkers, and carry on a conversation with them that would make onlookers assume you've been friends all your lives.

If you're lucky, you find yourself a friend or two in life that stick with you for life. No matter where you go, what you do, how long you may have been apart, that bond of friendship endures it all. Differences of opinion make no difference to the friendship. Honesty will always come out, especially when your friend thinks what ever you said or did was quite possibly the stupidest thing imaginable. And while a dose of that honesty may irritate the hell out of you, the very fact that they weren't afraid to tell you that you were wrong is always appreciated, and only further serves to strengthen your friendship. It builds the loyalty between you, and shows the commitment towards each other, despite any differences, because you see the integrity and credibility your friend displays.

Honesty, Loyalty, and Commitment. These words used to mean something across the broad spectrum, and adhering to these qualities would earn you respect, even among your adversaries, but especially amongst your friends. Now these terms are more likely to apply to a dog rather than a human. To display these qualities may make you the nice guy everyone likes, but it wont necessarily get you anywhere in the world in a material success sort of way. I try to live these qualities as best as I can, towards not only my good friends, but to even the most casual of friends. Some days I feel more like an old soul born into a soulless generation, who view these terms as mere words and cliches, and will ditch them as qualities if it means getting whatever they may be after in the moment.

I've been lucky enough in my life to have two people in my life who have reciprocated these characteristics when it comes to me. One is a man, one is a woman. They have been with me for a long time, through a variety of situations.

The man, is my lifelong friend, Jed. We've literally been together since the diaper years. When my family moved out to Iowa from California shortly after my younger sister was born, they somehow hooked up with his parents, who are basically a second set of parents to me and have been all my life. For Jed and I, when it seemed life at home sucked, we went to the other one's place. It was a small town, the doors were always unlocked, and for us, there was no need for knocking before entering. Now that could be scary for our young minds walking into a possible nude parent in the open kind of situation, but I think the frequency of our visits encouraged our parents to keep their clothes on. Well, during the day, anyways. Jed's dad, at night when we would be sleeping over, didn't much care. With a house full of nothing but boys, when he got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, he wasn't covering up for anybody. And the path to the bathroom always seemed to go right in front of the TV we were watching. I've seen way more of Dad #2 than I ever cared to see.

When Jed's parents went through divorce, he came to me. This was my first real exposure to the idea, at least in real life and that close to home. Being maybe a teenager, it's not like I had any words of wisdom to make up for my lack of experience in that arena. But as his friend, I was there to let him vent, re-direct his mind, whatever, I was just there. Later in life as adults, when I went through a rough patch in my married life, I went to him. He could relate, and offer advice to me, let me vent my frustrations out on him, and just be there for me, making sure I didn't go take a dive off the deep end and do something stupid and permanent that I may or may not live to regret down the road. He gave me a safe zone to stay while I worked things out in my own mind. He definitely kept me centered, and did his best to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow. He lives two states away from me now, has a beautiful wife and soul mate, and they recently adopted two beautiful little girls to make their family complete. We still talk, and see each other on visits from time to time, picking up where we left off, as though we'd just been together the day before. He has never been afraid to be honest with me and tell me when I'm being stupid. His loyalty shown through brightly when we were teenagers and I ran away for a few days, leaving him hanging with a paper route to do by himself, with no car (and I cashed out our collected money..oops), and at the mercy of both our dads. I never told him what I was up to, but when questioned, not only did he not give me up (because he couldn't), he went a step further and made sure they knew, at risk to his own life, that even if he knew anything he wasn't going to rat his friend out. His only really serious beef with me over the entire deal was that I didn't bring him along. He's my best friend, my brother for life. I love the guy- and before you use your words against me later- that love is in an entirely non-homosexual way.

The woman friend, we'll call her "Sara". This part is going to be a doozy. My thoughts will be honest, but a lot will be withheld for reasons of both privacy and decorum. I guess I should start at the beginning with her. We met at a park in Sac City, while she was in town visiting her relatives. My initial interest wasn't even with her, but a friend she had brought along for the trip. I, on one very rare occasion made the approach to the girls. Sort of. I used my buddy Jed's bike, because I didn't want to embarrass myself the first go around by showing off my mom's old John Deere bike I was using until I could get my new bike. I rode past the girls, eyeing them a on a swing set, with full intention of hitting them up. However, they saved my scared bacon, when they called me to quit chickening out and come over and talk to them. Have I ever mentioned I'm a bit on the shy side, especially when it comes to girls? So I took interest in her darker haired friend, because well, I prefer darker haired ladies over the blonds (which she denies she was, but I know what my eyes saw). They lived a few hours away, so a normal courtship was clearly out of the picture, but when you're 14 or 15, who really cares.

The letter writing (which was the extent of our relationship) between Sara's friend and I fizzled out pretty quickly. then one day out of the blue I get a letter from Sara. I didn't actually know her last name, so I was a bit confused as to who was sending me a letter, but not having much in the way of mail coming to the house in my name, I was all too glad to have something to read. Instead of me seeking out her as my friend, she sought me out on her own terms. And I'm really glad she did. Before I knew it, Sara and I exchanged a flurry of letters, quite possibly being responsible for keeping the United States Postal Service profitable all by ourselves. We exchanged letter so often, that when we ran out of things to say about the events in our lives, or our thoughts, I would occasionally find myself with a portion of a letter dated for one day that was a repeat of the same sentence "This is my new (insert color here) pen I'm trying out." She had 7 new pens she used, a couple were duplicate colors. But she was committed to making sure I got mail, which always made me feel important. Dad got bills in the mail from people committed to taking his money. I got letters from someone who didn't want my money (well maybe she did, but I didn't have much washing dishes for $3/hr after spending it on stamps and phone calls), but just wanted my friendship. I felt pretty friggin special. One major problem for our little pen-pal relationship we had going on was that her mother did not like me back then (I couldn't tell you her opinion of me now, some 15 years later). But Sara, being Sara, wrote me even though I couldn't write her back because her mom would confiscate the letters I sent. Eventually her loyalty to our friendship led her through the repeated process of setting me up with her friends' addresses (this changed from time to time), so that I could respond to her letters and she'd have something to read. To hand write out 8 pages per letter was nothing, and occasionally some would hit almost 20 pages. These of course were written over multiple days and sent out together. Otherwise, I think we'd both be suffering from permanent hand cramps from all that writing. Eventually her mother relented after finding out she was still communicating with me, and the fact that I was in Oklahoma attending Basic Training at Ft. Sill. The postal stamp confirmed where the letters were coming from, so apparently she thought her daughter safe from my evil boy ways with a few states between us.

We had a running commentary on our family life and parental woes, reasons why the world is a stupid place, the fact that I was (in my opinion) an athletic god among men (if you compared me to babies that haven't learned to crawl yet anyways), while she was unable to even do a single pull up. She really was such a girl about it. We'd discuss our plans for the future. I had deluded my own mind into thinking my future was this life of grand design. We discussed our flings and romances with other people. You see, she and I were kind of like the couple that never was. We were very close in that aspect. While respecting our right to date other people we could actually see, we often didn't much care for each others' significant others of the moment. She was the girl, I never dated, but still put her up on a pedestal to measure all other girls to the level of standards I assigned to Sara. But eventually, while Sara was always there for me, and would always in my mind be "my girl", I found another girl, who would eventually become my wife and the mother of my children. And true to nature, Sara eventually found herself a man to marry and they now have a new baby. He's a cute baby too.

The other day, while visiting my parents, my mom brought me down a box I had given her to keep a LONG time ago. It contained letters from people to me from when I lived in California and in the military. It contained a collection of notes and letters from my (soon to be ex-) wife. And then there were a couple of envelopes that contained the majority of letters Sara had written me over the years. I poured over those letters in no particular order. I was transported back all those years to before my marriage, remembering what life used to be with fond memories of that little girl I met at the park who stole my mailing address from her friend just to write me. I also found a reminder of her honesty in dealing with me. After I had a quick rendezvous the night before I was sworn into the National Guard, that resulted in my losing my virginity, she cussed me out in one of those letters, and swore hideous things about the girl that took my v-card away from me the only night I knew her.

We've met up from time to time throughout the years. I once even stayed at her place over a weekend to visit after we hadn't seen each other in a few years, as she showed me around her town and the wonders of living in frigid ass Minnesota (where people don't drink for fun, but to help stay warm). Even though our lives took so many different turns and paths, we remained loyal to the friendship we started a little more than half our lives ago. She's met my family, and maybe someday I'll get to meet her husband and their baby. Her husband is obviously a really good guy, considering she actually decided to marry him. He also has a rare spot that most men in her life never held: I never pre-judged him. Which is probably a good thing. I'd hate to think she married someone I didn't like, especially over something as dumb as he's another guy in her life. I'm not so sure I can say the same thing in reverse. But she never let our friendship go, even when I was being a jerkwad and concentrated only on my own life. And for that I love her, like always (and again, in a non-homosexual way...I am after all a lesbian trapped in a man's body). She really does embody what it means to be a best friend.

I'm sure I had other ways of going on and in conclusion to this post, but, I doubt I can really improve upon what I have written down. So I'll leave it at that.


Mookie said...

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, one of my favorite shows was The Wonder Years.

With me and Jed, I was the dorky friend Paul to his Kevin

With Sara, She was my Winnie Cooper...minus the hanging out, dancing and kissing.

Becky said...

How could you not be the dorky friend? I say that with love, of course.

My curiosity is piqued regarding the identity of Sara. The kicker is, I wouldn't be surprised to hear I know who she is and just forgot.

Mookie said...


First off, I am allowed to say I'm dorky. You however would be subjected to brutality byt he speech police for besmirching my reputation! lol

As for the identity of "Sara", I don't think you two ever met, but I could swear that you know who she is.

Becky said...

I knew it....I knew I probably knew her identity but I don't remember at all. Having a poor memory can really suck.

Mookie said...

I sent you a message on your facebook, for privacy reasons

scotterb said...

Cool story, I really enjoyed reading it. I wonder how different such a friendship would be in the digital age, where no one exchanges letters any more and you'd be able to constantly check each others' facebook status.

Mookie said...

Surely we would have reached out and given each other really messy viruses in attempts to blow up the other's computer for some dumb thing or another.