Friends

Sergio in Tepoztlan

Sergio in Tepoztlan

I went and looked for an erudite sounding quote about Friendships, and the best of them sounded banal. I’ll go instead to the simple one I learned in the Brownie Scouts: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver but the other gold.” 

My friends are now mostly in the gold status, and I’m learning how to keep and nurture them. My dear friend Martin is of the mind that it’s difficult to make friends when you’re older. I remind him that we became friends back when I was older than he is now, and he was much younger. Our friendship started when I was 54, in Mexico City, over the week of Dia de los Muertes. We’ve now traveled together over those 13 years to 6 countries on 3 continents. I’m currently living in his house in Australia, and hope to return the favor to him some day. We’re now old friends, but the friendship definitely started when I was not young.

My friends Julie and Christine and I had a 4 day pajama party recently after not having seen each other for over 20 years. In those few days, over good food and plenty of laughs, and some tears, the years disappeared. The reasons we were friends were the same as they were back in the 80s and 90s.

Sergio fell into my life on a city bus in Miami in 1989. He a Cuban poet, me a struggling grad student. I was in Miami doing research and teaching. There was utterly no reason for me to relate to this bearded miscreant. Worlds and language and a lot more separated us, but we fell into banter about philosophy and music on the bus ride, and still can’t stop talking when we are together. He taught me more about friendship than anyone else ever has. His great gift of a restless, critical and deep mind articulated with generous humor and passion, and sometimes disdain, sometimes sends me reeling, but always keeps me returning.

Bill Leubrie happened to live next door to me when I lived on my own for the first time after getting divorced. He was relatively housebound with HIV/AIDS, so it was always easy to drop in on him when I wanted company. I of course was convinced that I was keeping him company, but I do know better. Bill also made me crazy with his wild mind and hyper disciplined life. He believed what he believed with enormous energy, and suffered us fools kindly when we didn’t agree. I used to get birthday presents in the mail from Bill after I moved to Miami, and their arrival was foretold by a saturating aroma of cigars. Bill died at Christmas last year. Friendship also teaches a person about loss.

There are so many other friends who matter so very much. I have written about my recent trip to Seattle and reuniting with Elizabeth as well as Christine and Julie. Elizabeth was also a friend of Bill’s, and talking about him and our other mutual friends over beers reconnected me after many years abroad.

Make new friends, but keep the old. Jana, Rosalind and Herman befriended me when I struggled at my job in Bangladesh, with great humor and intelligence. They are all now in different countries than each other and me, but I like to believe that, thanks to the internet, we’ll always be friends and will see each other again. I know that if I heard from any of them that they needed something, I’d be there as best I could.

Now I am in deep. I haven’t even mentioned my lifetime friend and mentor, John, and his partner, Parvis, nor a lot of other friends. I’ll have to go there another time.

My friends keep me going, maybe even keep me alive. I owe them everything.

3 thoughts on “Friends

  1. […] Source: Friends […]

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  2. My mother said the same to me, “New friends are silver but old ones are gold”, and I hung on to that for a long time. After all she was my mother, a wise woman and I loved her! In recent years though I have sometimes questioned that. I had an old friend, ie one I had been friends with for a long time, but increasingly she was bringing no joy into my life and I can only think that I wasn’t bringing much into hers. It took me about two years to let that friendship go, but I did, even with my mother’s words ringing in my ears. Friendships work best when they are mutually supportive, even though sometimes one will be giving more than the other. When they become corrosive, even toxic, the length of the friendship may not be enough to sustain it. Shamefully, I didn’t discuss it with my friend. I didn’t give her a chance to salvage it because by then I just didn’t want to. I didn’t behave well in that but by then it was more a case of self preservation!

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    • I’ve had to let go of friends for similar reasons. I’m always torn, because if someone is behaving badly, they have some problems they aren’t dealing with, but if they aren’t ready to do that, then I think it is best to take care of yourself. Talking about it is a good idea, but not always possible. Thanks for the comments.

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