18 Feb 2022

On Friends Departing

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Each of us has friends that move in and out of our lives. I still connect with my childhood best friend but have seen him only twice in 50 years. My high school and college friends connect once or twice a year. Neighbors are connected by proximity, usually friendly, but only occasionally true friends.

It surprised me that after decades of not making a true friend I would find and truly value one now. It started because we had our dog pass over the rainbow bridge and were longing for canine companionship. One day only about five years ago, vacationers rented the condominium adjacent to ours. They have a young charming Shichon dog who was easily lured by my offering of a piece of chicken.

We often greet the tenants who rent next to us, nothing usually comes of it but for some chit chat, where are you from, how long are you staying, etc. But this dog’s owners were genuinely friendly – engaging, laughed easily and enjoyed our connection with their dog, Bailey. Turns out we had some commonalities – he liked to detail his car, as I do. In fact, our cars are identical. They both play golf as the two of us do. And they are Midwesterners as we were growing up. And our wives are both retired schoolteachers.

When we acquired our Bichon Missy, she became friends with Bailey and absolutely loved our new friends. They decided that our condo community was a good fit and they purchased a condo steps away from ours. We played golf as a foursome once a week, joined each other for meals, cocktails and would frequently socialize at our favorite watering hole. In short, we became close friends, even traveling to Door County Wisconsin to see their boat and enjoy the wonders of Sister Bay, Ephraim and environs.

Frankly we missed them as our winter visits are separated by 7+ months – a long time when you’re used to seeing and socializing with someone nearly every day. We were anticipating another 3+ month of togetherness when they informed us that my friend was having some back issues and needed some medical evaluation. Not a surprise as his back had been somewhat dicey for a couple of years. I thought he’s tough and resilient. He’ll get it fixed and we’ll move on.

We’d been texting, asking how it was going and they said they might be down a month late. Well, better than not coming, we thought. Missy was used to running up their steps when we walked by their condo and being greeted by Bailey’s bark. The door would open and she’d run in and inevitably whichever us was walking her would be invited in. Ever since I’d been sneaking chicken and cheese to Bailey, she in turn would try to run up our steps. She’d bark a hello and the same routine was repeated at our condo. An all-around good time with very good friends.

We had been here more than a month without them. We’d been getting anxious and impatient for them to arrive. Then the text came…

The dreaded news that had been lurking in the background was suddenly reality. I’m losing my friend, and soon. We wept and wept some more.

We’ve lost parents and my wife lost her brother. But none of our friends have left us. It is a wrenching reality that hits with a force never experienced. My cohort, confidante, and reliable voice of reason, interest and concern is departing. It is a terrible, incredibly painful and inescapable truth that we have spent our final winter together. His loving and ever-patient wife will be without her pharmacist bulwark.

He is an example all could look up to. He served in the military, put himself through college, built a business, raised a family and retired to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I think about how enriched the past five years have been thanks to this relationship.

We’ve shared many laughs, concerns about the direction of our country, concerns about our little condo community, the joys and concerns of our families, even joking about our similarities. But we especially joked about how his handiness and inventiveness always cost me money. His improvements to his place we so obvious I had to adopt them for myself. The leaf blower to clear the patio, the extension for my hummingbird feeder, the electric grill as there are no fire hazards allowed — the list is endless! As I am all thumbs, he even installed my battery powered door lock.

As I consider the future without our friendship, I know it will be greatly diminished. I will miss seeing them walking their dog, playing golf with him, enjoying his intense loyalty to his alma mater. Most especially I will miss his kindness, openness, generosity with his time and his enjoyment of our shared experiences.

I’ve learned as I look back on the past five years, how invigorating this friendship has made them. I took special pleasure in sending him a selection of Maker’s Mark bourbons when his liquor store ran low during the Covid lockdown.

I love my friend. He is still with us, and I want him to know how much his friendship has meant to me. I will send him a copy of this post after it goes up. I will not reveal details about this friend. He is entitled to his anonymity and his privacy. But I want those who read this to know the world is soon to lose a GOOD man. That is a deep hurt and great loss.

The last time I connect with him in this life I know will NOT be the last time we connect. Be strong my friend.

John, you are the man!

Missy up to Bailey’s door
Missy
Bailey
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One Response to On Friends Departing
  1. Comment * beautiful………


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