High School Friends
I’ve known my best friend for almost fifty years now. I married her 49 years ago this August. I have friends from medical school who have known me longer. One is on staff at MD Anderson and one is my cardiologist at St. Luke’s. I have a friend from college who lives in Colorado who has known me longer than my wife, but other than family, no one has known me longer than my high school friends. One friendship goes back over sixty years to the mid-1950s. I was the best man at both of their weddings and they were in my wedding party as well.
We had a wedding to attend on the Jersey shore on the Fourth of July so we flew in a few days early to Philadelphia, close to where my two high school friends live so we could spend some time with them and their wives. Throughout the evening of the first dinner I was struck by two opposing but completely logical thoughts.
First, we took up our conversations as if they had never ceased from the last time we were together in 2015. Second, they all had had lives about which I knew almost nothing. They had kids and grand kids, health traumas and parental deaths, sibling illnesses and personal triumphs, financial ups and timeshare downs, new houses and old cars. So much of the conversation was catching up with things I never knew yet here I was with the two people outside my family who knew me for the longest time and yet who had had lives about which I knew so little.
The following day we were able to squeeze in a round of golf at the club of one of my friends who lives in central New Jersey. The golf was not the point. The ritual was. We were no longer pushing our old clubs along in carts on the public courses of southern Long Island where we first met, but just being together in an activity we had performed together for 60 years. Throughout the time on the course, I was tickled by the fact that three weeks from my seventy-third birthday, I was still able to play anything with these friends of such long standing. The golf was beside the point. It was a silent celebration of life. Our wives played behind us, but they have only known each other through us. We were the cement that solidified relationships over decades.
As we prepare to leave one of their houses to go to that family wedding on the coast of New Jersey, a place I have never been because why would a Long Island boy ever go to New Jersey to go to the beach, I am struck with gratitude that I had had a chance to do this. My wife thought I was slightly crazy to make certain this got done, but I knew I was right.
On the eighteenth hole we shook hands and I said, and I meant it. “If this is the last time it’s ok.”
A wise friend recently told me of a mutual friend of ours who was dying who said, “I feel sad, but I do not feel cheated.” That sums it up.
Once you reach your three score and ten, you understand that the inevitable is out there and each chance to be with friends of long standing is precious. This was a clear example.
I urged my two friends to think about a trip to Pebble Beach, but they are both still working and breaking away is costly in time and money. It may happen. I hope so. But if it doesn’t, the 18th green on a semi-private course in central New Jersey may have to do. We have had a mighty good run.