Friends are a wonderful blessing. Over the years, I've had many of them. I moved to a neighboring state a few years after graduation and some of my friends got lost along the way. As sad as it seems, it was bound to happen. Circumstances change. People change. We grow up, move on, start careers, start families, and all sorts of neat things. We look back on our younger years and kick ourselves for things we said or did. Maybe we even regret things we didn't say. I think the latter is where I find myself.
Back up twenty years. Growing up in a small town, everybody knows everybody. You know what your neighbor is into at all sorts of odd hours in the night because you live so close, it's impossible not to know. That was me. My mom, brother, and I lived in a small town like this and we lived in close proximity of most of my good friends, save a few. It was wonderful. It was like a giant slumber party every weekend. We'd see each other or talk on the phone....hang out at each other's home. We'd sit on the porch and watch as other friends drove by. We always knew where they were going and who they were with. They always knew what we were doing and always, always, always knew they could drop in on us. We had an open sort of house. My mom was very tolerant of my brother and I (and our friends). We had lots of friends and our house always seemed to be the gathering place. I think mom loved it. I think she enjoyed having all those kids around her and around us. I think she liked caring for them and talking to them. I think she enjoyed seeing us develop deep, lasting friendships. At least until midnight rolled around and she had to kick someone out :-) (Really, I don't think she ever did that...she was pretty cool). Other parents did the same for us. They came to ball games and cheered us on or sat through chilly track meets to see me compete. They opened their homes and hearts to me. They fed me. I felt very fortunate growing up. Even though my parents were divorced, I felt like I had multiple moms and dads. I'm sure my brother would say the same.
Fast forward to now. Twenty years later you have me....the one who rarely ever goes home to visit. My mom isn't there anymore so I tell myself that there's no real reason to go back. Except that there is. Some of those friends and parents are still in that little town. While most people look at it and see nothing, I look at it and see half my life. And then there is that one friend. The one that's been there through everything. The one that knows everything; the losses and triumphs...the good, the bad, and certainly the ugly. My wonderful friend has been there in the same little town all this time. And do you know what happens if you run into them or see them in a store? It's like you never even left town and didn't call or write for twenty years. Our conversation picks right back up, as if we never stopped talking. Our thoughts are still so aligned that we practically finish each other's sentences. It's strange and comforting at the same time. Sometimes in life, it's hard to know who your true friends are. For me, I've always known I could count on this one. Always. No questions asked. Whatever I needed would be mine and vice versa.
So the next time you are thinking of that friend you haven't seen in a gazillion years, pick up the phone and call them. Send them an email. Drop them a letter. However, DO NOT, under any circumstance, put it off. Don't waste twenty years on silence when you have the ability to tell them you love them. Don't squander those moments when you could be crying over coffee or laughing over twinkies (or peanut butter rolls and peanut butter shakes in my case). Friends are a treasure. Best friends are life preservers, just waiting to hold you up when you are going under. The happiness and joy they bring will add years to your life. I'm sure of it. How would I know, you ask? I know because I have one of those friends....one of those life preservers that I know would hold me up when I'm sinking. One of those friends that would hug me and love me no matter how many years I let slip by without calling or writing. One of those friends who can finish my thoughts, likes the same things, and holds our friendship close to their heart.
To that friend I have this to say.....I love you. I treasure you. I hold a special place in my heart for you. You are never far from my thoughts.