When you get to be my age, you look back and find that you've left a lot of people in your wake. At least I have. I've led a mostly private life, surrounded by just a handful of people I'd call friends. I'd call very few of these close friends. The fact is, I only have a couple of people in my life that I'd use the word "close" to describe, and they've been a part of my life for more than 30 years. But as I have more time in my life to write and reflect on my past, I can't help but think about my old friends and how much I wish we could be close again. Life has a way of putting distance between us and these friends of the past, and sometimes as much as you try, you can never close that gap.
It's been over a week since I've written here, and as I was driving back from Asheville today, I was thinking about these guys. And I was thinking about how the friends we make and the times we share – especially in our younger years – help make us who we are. I can see little bits of each of these guys in the way I live my life today. I'd like to tell you about a handful of these now.
MF - I've known this guy as long as I can remember. At a very young age he suffered from polio, but after years of surgery, and physical therapy he made a full recovery. After high school, he went on to join the military, several police departments, and then spent a couple of years in Iraq working for a private contractor. MF is the bravest guy I know, and he taught me that no obstacle is too high to over come.
GH - This guy came into my life during High School when he and his family moved here from the northeast. We were fast friends for a couple of years, until I met his little sister. For what it's worth, today I wish I had kept the friend and stayed away from the sister. But, teenagers follow a different kind of logic. GH was a serious guy, and as near as I can tell he still is. Though it took too long to sink in, even as teenagers, he taught me that actions have consequences, and that things aren't always as they appear.
JM - He's one of the funniest guys I've ever known. While GH showed me that life should be taken seriously, JM taught me that very little in life isn't somehow humorous. I think he has always gone threw life with a smile on his face, and he taught me to have one more times than not. He taught me to have a sense of humor, though I never pulled off as well as he did.
KP - Though this guy was much older than me, we became good friends shortly after I left High School. KP was smart – I'm talking put a man on the moon smart. He taught me how to analyze problems and find a solutions. From him I learned that these solutions came from independent study and continuos self education. He taught me you can build pretty much anything if you set your mind to it. He also taught me how to drink a single malt. He's been gone now for several years, but I still think about all I learned from him.
Fast forward a few years over several friends in my 20s that taught me very little I can use today. I guess most of us go through stages in our life, and this one taught me a lot, but I can only use the lessons I learned today. Those are for another post.
MS - I met this guy when buying my first Harley, and we became instant friends. He taught me just how important friends are, and gave me his sense of adventure. He told me once as I was trying to stop smoking that "a man should never stop doing the things he really enjoys doing." He always spoke his mind, and gave his unbridled opinion. He taught me to be passionate about life and all the things we do.
And the 2 guys I mentioned earlier - friends to me more than 30 years now? They are brothers, and though they are as different as night and day, I still have a lot to learn from each of them. The younger brother has taught me patience and tolerance, even though he hasn't always been a great example of these things. The older brother has taught me that the status quo is never enough. His drive and success has given me countless examples to follow in my own life. These guys will always be my best friends.
I could keep going and mention a dozen or more past or present friends who have had an impact on my life, but these few people changed my life and the course of it in so many ways. You don't see it happening in real-time, only in retrospect. Some of this I never realized until today.
I'd be remiss if I didn't add my father to the list. Though through my own blindness I could never really call him friend, today I wish I had been more of a friend to him. Without even knowing it, he taught me how to have compassion and empathy for the people around me. These are perhaps the most important things anyone has ever given me.
It's funny how an afternoon drive through the mountains makes you think about your life and the impact other people have had on it. For me this begs a different question – are we really unique individuals that just notice similar traits in the people around us, or are we just a montage of the people we've known in our life? Personally I think it's the latter.
Tell me what you think! Leave a comment below.