I called an old friend of ours last week; he is not only old in age but also someone whose meaning to me doesn’t wither and fade away with time. He lives in another state and didn’t know about Tom’s demise, and I wanted to tell him because we had been friends since Tom returned from Vietnam.
I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since I had talked to him, and how much Tom and I had missed him. He is the kind of friend that you haven’t seen for years but pick up the conversation as if not one minute has passed. He is the kind of friend who says, “How are you?” and he really means it and knows if you are telling the truth or fudging. He is the kind of friend you could call after being arrested in Mexico for something you didn’t do, and he would come to your rescue, not that that ever happened, but it was a possibility one time when the Mexican police installed our license plate upside down on the front of our car and a second set of policemen found it less funny than the first set. I kept imagining the rest of our lives spent rotting away in some Ciudad de Mexicojail. Thankfully, because Tom was fluent in Spanish and was a judge himself, we didn't have to make that call to our devoted friend.
Predictably, this friend and I picked up the conversation from seven years ago when Tom and I visited Memphis, hoping to spend time on Beale Street, which didn’t happen, because it was pouring down rain, so instead we held wonderful conversation with this friend, which was probably a better use of time than drinking on Beale Street anyway. He has no kids of his own and hasn’t seen our kids since they were little guys, but on the phone, he talked about them as if he had seen them yesterday. We reminisced with funny stories about their tours in Vietnam and later Pensacola, and we ended the conversation with well wishes and promises to stay in touch better.
He’s retired now but once had a terrific talent as a woodworker, and I have a smattering of his creations sprinkled throughout my house, so every time I pull a paper towel off the spindle, I think of him. Every time I pull something delicious out of my spice rack, I remember his smile as he presented it to me. I’m glad we didn’t have to call him about getting arrested in Mexico because we didn’t have cell phones and I didn’t remember his number, but it is comforting to know that if we needed him, he would have been there, no questions asked. Old friends really are the best. No need to one-up each other, no worries that you will say the wrong thing, no hard feelings for the times not shared. Just true, real friendship, one cultivated only by time. Which of your friends would love to hear from you? Maybe today is the day to pick up the phone and revisit that treasure.
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