I was blessed with a visit recently with one of my closest friends. It had been way too long since we’d seen each other — more than a year. But one of the best things about our friendship is that it can be years — and there was a period of about three years where this happened when I was on the other side of the world or country from him — without seeing each other. But we can pick up in seconds. No awkward pauses. No guilty, “I’m a bad friend for not calling every week” kind of conversations. Just a big giant hug and we are right back where we left off.
John and I first became friends in college. He was on the “dark side” in advertising at our college paper back at Western Kentucky University (go Big Red). Had it not been for a silly retreat the staff took at the beginning of the year, we probably never would have known each other’s names let alone become lifelong friends.
Instead, a corny “get to know you” icebreaker gave us the in to become “forever friends.”
“Find a person who’s last four digits of their Social Security Number are odd.”
That was one of 20 or so questions on the game. I’m pretty competitive and had filled out all the other spots pretty quickly but was stumped by this one. So I turned to the person next to me, John, and asked quizzically, “What makes a number odd? This doesn’t seem very fair. It’s a pretty subjective question. I mean, what’s odd to me might not be odd to you. What are they looking for? Something like ‘1234?’”
This true southern gentleman who normally has a smile that makes just about anyone melt and soften a little, started cackling his head off like a mad man.
The time ran out then, and John made sure to get the group’s attention, the man is far from shy. “Hey everybody, she wants to know what makes a number odd! HAHAHA!”
I want to quickly point out that none of this was mean-spirited, the guy just had a tremendous sense of fun, and like me, gets tickled over the silliest stuff.
That was it. We cemented our relationship that night swinging on a playground and gabbing.
While still in school, the two of us were together a lot. I slept on his couch when I was too lonely or chicken to stay at my own place. He was my stand in “date” for countless events. We wore a path in and out of the newspaper office together. I could talk to him about anything and he me.
John made me braver, more confident. I edited his copy,
When I returned home from the Peace Corps, I was unable to drive for a time because of the illness I developed in Bangladesh. I was living at home with my parents due to those limitations but went to spend a long holiday weekend with John in Chicago.
While we were laying in his bed eating junk food and watching a marathon of America’s Next Top Model after staying up too late the night before, I lamented, “Ugh, I wish I could just stay here.”
He popped up out of bed — “Why don’t you?”
So I did. I moved in with him getting a few office jobs through a temp agency and was able to experience big city living with one of my best friends. It is perhaps one of the best summers of my life!
We’ve both, at one point or another, been the other’s rock.
He was living in Atlanta when he experienced a great loss in his family. He called, tears so strong I could barely understand him. I was in my car on my way to Atlanta within minutes when he convinced me otherwise. When I made a similar call to him a few years later after my dad died, he did the same.
“Honey, I’m on my way.”
He was a “bridesmaid” — in a sharp suit with pink tie — in my wedding and was my right hand man the whole day. Seriously, the man kept me on my feet that day! I was battling an infection, and he set a timer on his phone for my medicine, made sure I ate and even helped me get into my dress.
So when I had Miles, there really wasn’t a moment’s pause when I chose his Godfather — John.
I am so happy that my son has such a wonderful guy to act as a role model and friend as he grows up. And I’m elated that I still get to count him as a dear friend.