Friday, February 3, 2012

Family and Friends

My cousin and his wife came to visit their Arizona relatives this week, and stayed with us with us for a few days as houseguests.  Tom and Heidi live in Wisconsin, and we see them every two or three years if we’re lucky.  Tom is the closest cousin I’ve got; we’ve been friends since we were too young to consciously make those kinds of choices.  When I married Elizabeth, he came out for the wedding.  He was a groomsman, the only family member in my wedding party, but he was there because he was a friend even more than he was a part of the family. 

As with all my best male friends, communication between us is infrequent and inconsistent.  This drives Elizabeth crazy.  “How can you maintain a friendship when you make no effort to keep it going?” “How do you even dare to call yourself a good friend?” “How do you know you’re even friends anymore?  You haven’t spoken to some of them in ages.”  Maybe this is a point of divergence between men and women, or maybe I just have exceptionally tolerant friends.  The sum total of my experience has led me to the conclusion that friendship is the only true perpetual motion machine that’s ever existed.  In a way, it’s actually superior because, in addition to requiring no added energy to keep it running, it requires no actual effort to start the initial movement.  It all happens spontaneously.

The experts say that you have to constantly work at any successful relationship, but I think that’s part of what makes true friendship so special.  It defies the rules. It flaunts the rules.  It mocks the rules.  True friendship comes from such a mysterious, primitive place that it seems to exist before, and outside of, any rules.   It’s a bond that forms of its own volition, connecting two people at the center of their internal gravities, governed by its own properties, and nothing else.

Maybe some people are afraid to test the boundaries of friendship in this way, and so don’t know just how timeless and resilient true friendship is.  But I have tried pushing it to its very neglectable limits, and found that it hasn’t suffered more than superficial scratches.  I appeal to your own experience to verify my assertion.  Haven’t you ever gone for a long time, years even, apart from a true friend, and then suddenly been reunited?  Haven’t you observed how after perhaps a moment or two of awkwardness, you suddenly discover it’s as though no time at all has lapsed?  It’s an insanely magical thing.  You look different, you feel different, you know for a fact you are different, and so is your friend, but the friendship moves on without the slightest hesitation or deviation because its sources are the things in us that rarely, if ever, change. 

I think friendship is the second-best thing God has given us.  I rank it higher than beer and movies.  

I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to wax poetic on the topic of friendship.  I guess I got a little carried away.  Anyway, Tom is that kind of a friend to me.

On Monday, we took Tom and Heidi (we being myself and daughter Maria) on a leisurely city excursion.  We had lunch downtown at Cooperstown.  I impressed them (and myself) by getting one of the meter spots right in front of the restaurant.  At least I think I impressed them; if I did, I don’t think it lasted once they saw the Alice Cooper eyeliner sported by the staff.  After lunch we drove east, following the light rail line, before turning north to cruise through the rusty buttes of Papago Park.  At McDowell we cut over to Scottsdale Road, and went a few more miles north to the Sugar Bowl, where we had sundaes, and Maria played her first game of Whack-A-Mole (or, in this case, Whack-A-Shark, which I’m sure she preferred because she has no idea what a mole is).  Then we backtracked south, driving through the shadow of Sun Devil stadium and spent an hour or so at Tempe Town Lake.  We strolled along the lakeside trail, soaking up the perfectly balanced air and view on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  We saw a bald eagle take a fish from the water and fly away.  Maria chased one particularly reticent pigeon all over the grassy hill.  It was as nice a day as I can remember.  I’m sure the fish and the pigeon have their own opinions.

It was also great seeing how Jessica and Maria cottoned to our houseguests.  I could see that, in her quiet way, Jessica enjoyed their easy, perceptive humor, which happens to blend well with her own sensibilities.  And by last evening, Maria was quite literally hanging from Tom’s legs, arms, shoulders, neck, any which way she could, with all the ferocious strength in that tiny little body, the strength she usually reserves only for me.  I watched Tom playing with her and hoped that’s what other people saw when I played with their kids. 

Tom and Heidi left for home this morning.  Thanks for spending your time with us.  We hope you enjoyed your stay as much as we enjoyed welcoming you into our home. 

Until next time, whenever God or Elizabeth decides it’s been long enough. 

P.S.  Tom’s mom is my godmother, and happens to be one of my favorite people on this crazy planet.  Unbeknownst to me, it turns out she is also a TBF of the blog, as she revealed when she couldn’t resist, with her usual sharp-witted sense of humor (just one of the reasons she is one of my favorite people), sending me a Christmas gift consisting of a three-bar pack of Irish Spring.   If this has you scratching your head, head over to the archives and read The Open Door, Parts 1 and 2

In response, I sent something back with Tom and Heidi.  The following message belongs with it:   

To my wonderful aunt Lois, thank you so much for reading.  I hope you know how much love and appreciation is returning to you in the form of this gift.  Thanks for being a TBF, not just of the blog, but of me.  And thanks for the amazing family you and Ed have produced; not a bad nut in the lot. Tell Ed I love and miss being around the both of you.

Your Godson


  1. It's me, anonymous again... one of these times I will get a screen name. I love this reflection on friendship, as I am lucky also to have some that distance and time do no damage to the link between our hearts.
    And I LOVE the bit about Lois... what a tease. We sure enjoyed Tom and Heidi too. So if you're reading- We love you!

  2. Anonymous - I think you should stay anonymous. It's more fun to guess.