Friendship - Please take the time to read
I went digging into a firebox the other day, looking for some old documents. I found something that I'd cut out of a newspaper some 25-30 years ago. Problem is, I cut out the name of the paper, author, title, leaving only the text of the article. It's a long read, but well worth the time it takes. If any of you have any friends that you've known for a while, but have started to drift away, this will change your mind.
Friendship is an important aspect of our lives. Too often we take our best friends for granted, assuming they are always going to be there. And when, as friends, we go our separate ways, keeping in touch is important. I learned this the hard way during this past summer.
Larry moved in across the street while we were still in grammar school. My first memories of him recall an energetic kid in a green beret and a camouflaged cape, running to hide behind pine trees, shooting invisible enemies with a noisy toy machine gun. After overcoming the obstacles of timid introductions, it was the two afternoon soldiers out to defeat all of Germany alone.
From the intrigues of guerilla warfare we progressed to playing Huck Finn, homemade corn cob pipes and all. We even tried running away. The adventure lasted through one hot summer afternoon and a can of cold pork’n’beans.
Spring called for whiffle ball in the vacant lot. We would work up a sweat and return home to an ice cold glass of strawberry Kool-Aid, sitting on the picnic table in the shade of the old pin oak.
Larry’s aunt lived near our church and one day after ‘Sunbeams’ we went to visit her, lost track of time and got left to find our own means home. But the long walk home was a binding experience – it gave us something to talk about, something to feel big about.
Campouts. We never got far from home but after night fell, we were in the deepest jungles. And the one batch of scrambled eggs that I remember ended up as bird food.
We had the usual brawls that plague every childhood friendship. When the wrestling was over, we would run off, red-faced and breathless, hearts pounding and ears hurting from headlocks, to wait out the traditional period of silence.
After his sixth grade year, Larry moved to Arkansas. I don’t remember being too sad at the time. His moving meant a new place to visit during vacations. We wrote letters for a while. The visits to Arkadelphia were always fun. We could take up where we had left off – exploring the woods, skipping rocks on the pond behind his house, just talking and remembering.
But as the years progressed and our interests varied, the letters were less frequent. Larry was graduated from high school and got married. I never sent him congratulations on either account. He joined the army and his wife had a baby girl. I thought of writing him then but never seemed to find the time. I hadn’t seen him for three years.
One sunny July Sunday morning, we received the news that Larry had died in a car accident in Texas. He had been serving the army for real and was on his way home from maneuvers, tired and sleepy, when he swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic. I thought of the letter I’d intended to write to him. His old red scooter, the life raft with the hole in it, roller skating out at the Paradise, all swirled through my mind.
Now it was too late for anything but the memories. As the bugle sounded taps and the 21 gun salute broke the droning silence of the stifling July afternoon, a lump came to my throat, and in the sadness of the moment, as my friend lay before me, I vowed to use his sudden death as a constant reminder of the importance of staying close and taking the little bit of time required to write a short letter, just to let a friend know I’m thinking about him.
Larry’s gone. But his death showed me the emptiness that can exist from the loss and, even worse, the guilt of knowing that I’d not done my part to keep a friendship alive.