An interesting thing that I note much of the time in life is the slipperiness of reality. By this I mean that way we register change. Most of us noted this early on as we physically grew. My mom owned this cool cabinet stereo she had bought with me when I was five or so. As we moved I spent several years away from this household appliance. The next time I saw the thing I was not looking at it as a big box that went up to my neck, I saw this smaller cabinet that was about waist high. I was shocked how small this thing had become.
Likewise, my friendships have often diminished as time has passed. When I was in kindergarten and first grade my cousin Allen was my best friend. I can recall the hours that we spent under his parents deck where they had this filtered sunshine coming down onto a large sand box of sorts. We would spend hours together reveling in each other’s invention and conversation. I don’t expect that climbing under Allen’s deck would be as nice now, but I did lose Allen’s companionship as I moved and it never came back. I could—and have—called him out-of-the-blue but we would exchange a few reminiscences and familial updates and say that we should stay in touch, but we won’t.
And we all have these relationships whose presence we miss unconsciously. They accrue in life and the absences that we note in our internal role call become less apparent, but we never take names completely off the books. These names are written into our minds as not only the categories of others, but they settle in and become part of our personality. Allen’s sense of humor is still mine. Scott Monroe’s smile has become mine, Margaret’s warm personality is the personality I most like to model, and so on. These folks are still resident in the culture of my mind. While this is so I am irritated that when I call their names few reply.
I feel that I am alone in this, but I guess that is the point. I feel like I have picked up too large a double handful of those little silver round cake sprinkles and in trying to hold them all I have managed to drop every one. Some folks I have lost as I moved, and others have just been part of the attrition cycle that happens in each partitioned section of our lives: my pals in high school were for high school. Many friendships were for a certain city, or certain activity, or for when I was single, or when I was married. My friends in different work places have not transferred out of the work place. They are all stuck in the faculty lounges of my memory and calling them is no better than calling my cousin. Like college electives, for some reason these friendships don’t transfer.
However I have a group, an inner circle of those whom I cherish. Probably a dozen or so folks whose opinion and insight and company I hold as the high watermark of pleasurable company, valued friends, necessary confidant. Yet even these are lost from me as I slide forward through slippery time. I had one friend, Shirley, who was approaching 90 that I lost. She was OK with it, but I was not, am not. (And when I point out what I got from others, I have no qualities as fine as Shirley’s at all.) Others wandered away from my campfire because we had been too close and had to become something else, and became nothing at all.
It goes on. Writing like this usually stumbles around and ends on the happy note that they are all still with you, as you have bits of them, but not me. I love dozens of dear friends well and fully, and feel a bit gypped by their loss. I suppose it is unhealthy to want to keep so many and to stay in touch and so on, but I do. I resent the slipperiness of reality. It’s like we are all paratroopers leaping from a plane at night descending with others but only bumping into them briefly and then flying off in other directions. Our descent so outstrips our floating toward and away from one another so much that our interactions are the background and the plummeting is the foreground. I sort of resent the velocity of descent. I want to focus on my friends and enjoy them and love them.
I want to reject my own metaphor of parachutists accelerating toward terra firma largely alone, and claim rail travel instead. I want to be hurtling forward and invite my comrades to the bar car to enjoy the journey instead. Now how to do that? I don’t know yet.