An old friend of mine passed away a few weeks back. I hadn’t seen him in 30 years. For a time, in grade school, he was my closest friend. We lost touch with each other the way kids do. Something as simple as a schedule change in school or a bus route makes all the difference at that age. Then you’re strangers.
Like most people, over the years I’ve had to deal with the phenomenon of losing people I know. The most common, simply because we know few people well and many at a distance, is the passing of someone we we weren’t close with. From time to time though, it’s someone we knew more than that once. But not any more. And we’re not quite sure how to feel about it. There’s an urge to feel some guilt that we’ve let the relationship slip. And that now it’s too late to make amends.
I’ve come to think of it a bit differently.
We were once familiar.
One of the amazing things we humans do with those we’re familiar with is store bits of ourselves in each other. We see it with teams in sports or at work or in the military. When we are together long enough, there’s a sort of formed, shared consciousness. We call it chemistry. It’s deeper than inanimate elements mixing together though. It’s other people’s skills, awareness, even feelings as an extension of ourselves. When familiarity lasts, we often end up storing our whole selves in others. We’ve all heard countless stories of long married couples. When one goes, the other follows shortly. They took too much of the other with them for the other to go on. .
And so it is, to a lesser extent with brief or distant familiarity. Somewhere inside my friend and I is parts of each other. Small things that come from playing hundreds of hours of video games or watching cable movies we weren’t supposed to or playing pick up football games in the snow. And though I haven’t seen him for 30 years, it’s still there. It’s permanent. And it’s honest and good to mourn it.
RIP Tommy. We were once and always friends.