Friday, December 11, 2015

We're Built for Speed not Distance

I’m a pretty poor sailor on the ocean of life in terms of my navigational prowess with the USS Friendship. I’m not good at making or keeping friends but, pleading my case for a moment, I’m consistent since even as a child I wasn’t very good at any of it.

Since I take forever to get comfortable enough to consider someone a friend it takes something extraordinary to change or break that relationship up. The coalescing and convergence of technologies so that entities like Social Media, which we (at least I) regard as appliances now, but that didn’t exist twenty or so years ago, makes renewing acquaintances a lot easier. 

Friend requests or adding someone to a circle is a mouse-click-as is ending those relationships. I mention all of that because my computer which had let me down, I thought, the other day, redeemed itself just yesterday by sharing with me something I feared I had lost.

Some time ago we upgraded systems at work (I’m no smarter than I was the first day the first computer showed up but time and technology march on) and not really understanding how to archive electronic correspondence to transfer it to the new machine, I lost all my exchanges with the last person I considered a friend, Bob, who died very suddenly the summer before last.

We were only friends because he worked very hard at it. Actually, he refused to not let me be his friend, I guess. We had little in common except an interaction as equals at work and the fact we were both dads. I’m pretty sure that’s all of it. But that was enough for Bob and became enough for me, too.

It was not unusual in the course of a day, any day, for the phone to ring and I'd hear a slight pause and then, "Hey, BK, this is Bob...." And a phone call would turn into a magical mystery tour of topics and interests, thoroughly examined, dusted for prints (or the artist formerly known as prints) and returned to their proper place. There are only two other people who have ever called me by my initials and I keep them both in my heart. 

He was a very devout Protestant; I am a very guilt-ridden FARC. He gave everyone he met the benefit of the doubt every single time; I give everyone I meet a piece of my mind so often, it’s amazing I have any left by the end of the day. He is why you are reading this. He suggested quite often in the years of our friendship I should write. So this is all on him.

When he died, I was incredulous and in a way very angry. He was the picture of health. He was happy at work and in his personal life. He was generous with his time and talents with friends and strangers alike. He should have lived another full lifetime, and he would have known what to do with those years.

Bob was, for me, a lifeboat for my sanity when others might have been fitting me for a straightjacket. I don't think I served a reciprocal function. There wasn’t a ledge professionally or personally he couldn’t talk me down from and in the decade and a half we knew each other, he had far more opportunities to do that anyone should have ever had. 

I felt as if I’d lost my driving wheel leaving his memorial service. I couldn’t bring myself to speak with his family afterwards (and still can't) to offer my condolences; in a way, my grief (as self-centered as this reads) was as profound to me as theirs to them.

And then, like I said, after I had archived our correspondence on my old machine, I was heartbroken to discover I had somehow vaporized all of our words. It felt like losing him all over again. But clicking on a thingamabob tab yesterday in e-mail that I’d never noticed, there it all was again!

It was a great afternoon-reading again all the news and notes we had shared between us. I laughed so hard at one of his points I started to reach for the phone to call and ask him how that situation had finally worked out but stopped myself before dialling because……well, because when we became friends we both knew we would know one another for the rest of our lives.
Only one of us was right.
-bill kenny

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