I have a group of friends I’ve been close to since high school. I’m not talking about school chums who are friends on Facebook. I mean real connection, pick up the phone and call, I’m here for you bud. Real. Actual. Friends. We’re scattered across Canada and the UK. The closest is about 40 kilometers away, the farthest, 6,000 kilometers.
A few aren’t even on Facebook. I don’t think Jeff even knows what Facebook is! Mike lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he produces films and television. He’s also eschewed Facebook. I haven’t seen Mike in person since 1999.
Thank goodness for Zoom. Now if we could just get Jeff to figure out how Zoom works, we’d be getting together almost every weekend! He does know how to text though. We probably communicate more often than I do with any of the others. He used to fly out to Vancouver from Montreal for work, so we’d always make the effort to get together in person. Unfortunately he’s not doing that job anymore, so we really need to get him on Zoom.
Richard also lives near Montreal. He and Jeff are the only friends who have stayed close to their childhood homes. They see each other quite often. But really none of this matters. Not distance, not time zones, not careers or family obligations. The only thing that matters is having a lifelong friendship with 6 buddies that will always endure.
We used to have the best time together. We went camping, went to parties, drank beer, spent weekends at someone’s cottage, played road hockey, drank beer, cross-country skied, you name it. We also liked to just sit around and drink beer.
In high school nothing was more important than my friends. That’s probably true for most kids during their high school years. Families are the people we’re related to, and we love them, but it’s our friends who have the biggest impact, the biggest influence over us in our teen years.
As my children navigate teenager-hood, it’s good to remember this. Our kids may not share everything they’re thinking and feeling with us. And we need to be okay with that. I want them to have friends that they’re comfortable sharing things with. Maybe things they’re not comfortable sharing with their parents. Because having friends that you can really talk to is more important than having friends that you can laugh with. The best friends are those you can do both.
Our relationships come and go throughout our lives. Friendships change depending on where we live and work. They change with the various changes that happen in our lives. It’s the deep, intimate friendships we develop that help anchor us through those changes. Those friendships keep us grounded, no matter how difficult the upheavals in our lives.
Back in 1999, Heather and I drove the long miles across Canada, all the way to Prince Edward Island. Along the way we spent a few days in Oakville, Ontario where we got to visit old friends. My buddy Mike, the Belfast producer, was there visiting his family. Jeff and Richard drove down from Montreal. For 3 days we laughed, drank, and played like we hadn’t seen each other in years. But we also laughed, drank and played like we had never been apart. We simply picked up where we had left off, and carried on with our friendship. We had water fights at 2 AM, chasing each other through suburban backyards. I had the brilliant idea of bringing a tape recorder and microphone. We sat around a patio table one night and talked for hours while the tape recorded every word. A few years back I found that tape and put it on. it was filled with 2 solid hours of laughter. Everyone talking over one another. It was completely incoherent. But it didn’t matter.
While I don’t remember all the things we talked about, I do remember the laughter, the tears, and the warm feeling of deep friendship. That’s all that matters.
Forty-five years after these friendships were forged, the bonds have only grown stronger. We all have our own families, other friends made over the years. But the friendships made during the prime years of our youth continue to endure. Those friendships mean as much to me now as they did when I was a teenager.
My own kids are reaching their prime years very soon. I hope they are as blessed as I, and they meet their own forever friends. I know that if they do, their lives will be immeasurably enriched.
With deep gratitude and love to Jeff, Richard, Mike, Noel, Ric, and Geoff.