Monday, January 05, 2015

Lament



Jimmy, Stephen


My best friend died Saturday.

I need to clarify. He wasn't my current best friend; that title goes to my wife. He hadn't been my best friend for... a long time. But we grew up together, in the same two-family house in Lower Mills. We went through every grade in school together (with the exception of one year in different junior highs) and graduated in the same class from what was then Boston Tech. Until we were both in our thirties and had been married a few years, we still lived in that same childhood home (our parents long gone from the property, via death and divorce, we had stayed.)

We stopped being what I'd call “best” friends in our early teens. We still spent lots of time together – still friends – but not “best”. In my later teen years, I started to split my time between the old gang and another group from different neighborhoods. I felt more liked in the new group, started to drift from some in the old. Living in the same house kept us in contact for many years, but we grew apart.

In my twenties, I had problems. So did he. Lots of them were similar (family disasters, substances, etc., and I won't go into detail) but we mostly worked them out separately. We didn't talk a lot about them, even though we both knew and we both lived in the same house. We just weren't that sort of close anymore. If push came to shove, I know he would have been there for me and I would have been there for him.

Time passed and we both married. He had two sons, then he and his family moved from our childhood home a few months before my wife and I did the same. That was the last I really saw of him until his older brother's death eight or nine years later.

I went to the wake, we met up again under those bad circumstances, made a promise to get together for dinner someday. The exchanged phone numbers were never called. I think it was just discomfort, a grown unfamiliarity, since – I only know this for sure concerning me, of course – so much had changed and we really weren't keen on reliving the past with anybody, let alone a person who knew so much of it intimately.

And maybe ten years since that wake - Saturday, as I write – word comes from another childhood friend that my old friend is gone.

The easy thing to write would be some platitude about never allowing your friends to get away, to never lose sight of your friendships because friendships are sacred. There's truth in that, and if you can hold onto them you should, of course. But sometimes that doesn't happen and it's not because of an argument or something else big and easily seen. Sometimes life just flows one way for you and another way for someone else. When you were younger and playing baseball and street hockey; riding your bikes and sharing comic books and loving the same TV shows; going to mass and confession together (where you pretty much confessed the same sins); seeing Red Sox games at Fenway with your dads and the Enchanted Village at Christmas with your moms; building a fort in your backyard and hooking school and maybe even running in tandem from the cops once or twice, you never think it will happen. But it does.

More's the pity, of course. True best friends are rare, no matter when or for how long. You were mine when we were kids, Stephen. For that, I'll always love you.


24 comments:

Barbara Shallue said...

I totally understand this. For the most part, I've stayed in touch, or reconnected with, lots of my school friends. While I've become really close to some I never even knew back then, there are a few "best" friends from those years that feel more like strangers to me now. Life is weird. Well, I guess people are weird. But I sympathize with the sorry I know you feel, and will keep all who knew him in my prayers.

Jackie said...

My heartstrings are tugged as I read this, Jim.
I'm sorry about the passing of your childhood friend.
Love,
Jackie

Stephen Hayes said...

A loss such as the one you describe makes you question how you dole out your precious days, who you share your life with and the significance of relationship decisions you make. Sorry to hear about your friend.

lime said...

Your last paragraph says it all. I am sorry for your loss, in many ways. Peace, comfort, and condolences to all those who loved him.

Sean Flaherty said...

That is very touching and well written. Thanks for the post.
Sean

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I feel your loss, Jim.
One of my best friends just died, too.
We were 'best' friends in the Navy, though on different ships.
Then for a couple of years in the late '60s and early '70s.
We remained in tenuous contact for all that time.

OldAFSarge said...

Time rolls on, people drift together, then drift apart. It happens.

For a time, you share this ride called "Life" with someone you can call friend. You may drift apart in later years but you will always have those moments in time, however brief.

When they are gone, you remember those good times and you cherish them.

Sorry for your loss Jim. Prayers have been offered. It's all I can do. I know your pain.

Craig said...

I get this, Jim. Thanks.

I had a few close friends from my school days, and for one reason or another, I've fallen out of touch with most all of them. One of 'em, I hadn't seen in 30 years until our class reunion a year or so ago, and we just fell back in together like we'd never been apart. Then, when I wrote him, he never wrote back. Some guys just don't write letters. . . Another guy, who was probably my best friend in HS, we just grew in very divergent directions, and it's kinda awkward when we bump into each other, every 10 years or so (I'm closer with his his sister, who was a major crush of mine, back in the day. . .)

I am sorry for your loss. Requiescat In Pace, Stephen. . .

Pat - Arkansas said...

Good thoughts and hugs to you, Jim. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Not connected to this post in any way whatsoever: I wish you and YOUR WIFE a happy Little Christmas. I will always think of you on Jan 6.

Karen said...

This is beautiful. I'm glad you have lots of good memories of Stephen.

messymimi said...

Please accept my condolences for the loss of your childhood friend.

Shammickite said...

So many good people come into our lives for a while, and then for some obscure reason we lose touch, our lives change, we promise to meet and somehow it doesn't happen, and then we suddenly find out it's too late to renew that connection. It happens to us all. I'm sad to hear your news, Jim.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Well said, Jim. You've put into words what I could only feel in my heart.

Daryl said...

beautifully writ Jim .. may you rest in peace Stephen clearly you will be missed

Jenny Woolf said...

A wise post, and it's good that you value the historic friendship you had even though it didn't last at the same intensity. When you are young, time stretches so much. though

It's.a.crazy.world said...

But you remember...and that is what counts, and what we hope will happen when we pass...that someone will remember us with fondness. Great post, but sorry for the loss.

Hilary said...

I'm so sorry for this loss, Jim. You wrote a beautiful tribute to your childhood friend and to early-in-life friendships everywhere.

In the past 7 years or so, through online info, I've learned that three of my closest friends in childhood have left this planet. As with you and Stephen, we didn't stay connected though the years but the losses still cut deep.

My heart goes out to you and to his family and friends.

Maggie May said...

The friendships you make in childhood are the ones that come back in memories and sometimes these friendships can be deep even if we don't see those people. After all, growing up together forms a kind of cement, a base for other friendships.
I'm really sorry that you lost this friend. It does run deep whether of not you realise it.
Maggie x

TexWisGirl said...

so very sweet and very real. congrats on your POTW.

Tabor said...

So sorry. Yes the platitude is how lucky you are to have had him as a friend when many cannot claim such, but we all realize that an big empty place is left behind. May it grow smaller each day.

Anvilcloud said...

Came here from Hilary and am not disappointed. You have a good view of life and how it goes.

EG CameraGirl said...

You've touched my heart too!

Terri B said...

People definitely come into our life for a reason and I always remember the ones who have touched my life in a significant way. I'm sorry for your loss.

Pauline said...

We're never not alone but having a friend helps keep loneliness at bay. Your last paragraph makes a fine distinction - one may not always be our best friend forever, but while s/he is, it's a thing to treasure.