My son Keith was born six months before Davey. The two “met” when Davey was two days old. They have been the best of friends for the thirty-three years that have now intervened.
Davey’s parents and my wife and I were very close when our boys were born, and we remained so throughout their childhood. Thus, the two had no alternative but to spend time with each other, and so they did, from the playpens to the sandboxes to the little coloring tables and on through the pre-pubescent years. They played on the same little league teams, Davey playing second base and Keith first. They played on the same soccer teams, Davey scoring the goals that Keith assisted on.
They went to different middle and high schools but stayed close. During their college years, they were geographically separated, but stayed in touch. Then Keith moved to LA, while Davey settled in San Diego, and they assumed their adult personas. And, wonder of wonders, they found much to admire, respect, and like in each other during those post-adolescent years.
Ultimately, Keith moved to New York and Davey settled back in Sacramento. Yet the friendship flourished, in spite of the geographic divide, as they would get together whenever Keith returned for a vacation or holiday visit.
Last week, Davey got married and Keith was his best man. Hearing Keith’s toast of Davey brought tears to my eyes, as it marked the most beautiful of friendships—the kind that endure and grow over the years into the kind of relationship that can only be equaled in the best of marriages.
Bob is my oldest friend. We met in what is now called middle school. (It was junior high back then.) We were coincidentally scheduled in all of the same classes that first year, which helped in terms of starting the friendship. But we both felt a natural draw to each other in those adolescent years, I to his wit and out-going personality, he to something in me that I’m not sure I understand.
In those early years, we were constantly doing things together—golf, bowling, girls (well, not so much with girls, but talking about them incessantly). We had a ritual on those nights when we both were lucky enough to have dates to meet at a local diner in our town where we’d share reports on the conquests (or, more likely, lack thereof) of the evening.
We stayed connected during our college years, and when I accepted my commission in the Air Force, I was fortunate to be stationed at a nearby base, allowing us to see each other regularly. During those years (our early twenties), we took up skiing and got much more serious about the opposite sex. Each winter we joined with a band of similarly minded guys in renting a ski lodge, and we’d essentially spend every weekend at the lodge, often with female companionship.
We also joined an encounter group during those years with a wise old man named Abe. He led us into a better understanding of the adults we had become and prepared us for the bumps in the road that were to follow.
And we have been there for each other ever since, albeit we have been separated by a full continent since I moved to California to attend law school and pursue my career. Our long standing tradition is to phone each other on our birthdays, and I don’t think either of us has missed one in over 40 years. Bob wrote in my high school yearbook that “our bond will never be broke.” I’ve always cherished that pledge, much as I do the vow I made to my wife thirty-six years ago.
I met Jan in the fall of 2000. He had just started dating my wife’s best friend, and she was convinced he and I would quickly become fast friends. She was right. Before I even met him in person, we were exchanging lengthy e-mails that delved deep into the kind of philosophical issues that regular readers of my columns know engage me completely.
But our friendship involved much more than metaphysical discussions. Aided by the friendship our wives shared (Gayle and Jan married in 2001), we began a tradition of attending concerts together (a tradition that received a gigantic boost when the great Mondavi Center opened). On average we would attend three events a month together. Our musical tastes were similar, and we learned from each other (he jazz and classical from me; I folk and blue grass from him).
And we were both sports nuts and political junkies. Suffice to say, we were never without topics to discuss, and our discussions were always invigorating and educational.
And then five years ago, Gayle and Jan and Jeri and I joined with two other close friends, Ron and Sherrie in a once-a-month dinner-and-movie night in which we would rotate from house to house with each host/hostess responsible for the main course for the meal and the movie (DVD) selection that we would view together. We all reveled in these evenings to the point that we often would cancel other plans just to make sure we didn’t miss a month. (In five years, I don’t believe we missed more than two.)
I dearly loved Jan. He had become my closest and most intimate friend when he died in a horrific single-vehicle car accident last month. He was driving home from his daughter’s house in Concord when his car spun off of the road, flipping and killing him instantly. Our best guess is that he dozed off for a critical moment. In the weeks that have followed, I have struggled with the pain that comes from the sudden loss of a person so intimately and completely involved in my life.
I don’t have much to add. I’m not sure that any of these friendships, as I have described them, are all that unusual. I suppose we all have such friendships over a lifetime. Let this be my tribute to them, with the hope that these friendships may resonate with those you have known.