Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

A Eulogy I Didn’t Get To Give

It hits me on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Well, many Thursdays and Fridays, but it hits me pretty much every Tuesday, especially around lunchtime. That’s when my friend Ken and I would get together.

It’s funny, huh? I mean, Tuesday and all. You know… the whole “Tuesdays with Morrie” thing. I never really noticed that Tuesday thing until it was over. Tuesday was just the day that I usually operated, that I was usually done in time to hit the gym and then spend some time with Ken. Amy had mentioned last year that Tuesdays were a hard day for her since she had to work all day, and she wondered if anybody might be free to hang out. Tuesdays just happened to be good for me.

Some of my extended family and some of my other friendly acquaintances questioned whether this would be a good idea, at least for me. “Why would you spend so much time with someone, become a much better friend, when you know that they’re going to leave you? Won’t that just increase the heartbreak?” I always responded in pretty much the same way, that as far as I can see you can never have enough friends, even if a particular friendship has a pretty clear “expiration date”.

There’ve been lots of articles in all kinds of places recently, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, men’s and women’s magazines, about the fundamental differences between friendships between men and friendships between women. The “Reader’s Digest” version of these differences goes something like this: women have friendships that are face-to-face. They bond through shared feelings and emotions. Men have friendships that are shoulder to shoulder. They bond through shared experiences. All of this is probably true. If I look at my friendship history I would say that these descriptions are probably pretty accurate, at least for me.

Really good friends, the best of friends, probably have a friendship which includes both strategies. I think this is how it was for Ken and me for 22 months. The shared experiences thing was limited due to the extraordinary circumstances involved, of course. We hung out in the gym a little bit, enjoyed a few rides with the top down, and did the “guy picking out his new car” thing together. But mostly what we did was just hang out over lunch or over tea, thinking and talking about lives past and lives to come.

(Shrugs). We were just friends.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, what’s the point? Why am I sitting here listening to this guy in a bowtie talk about 22 months of friendship that were laid on top of 10 or so years of being friendly acquaintances? Fair question. (Smiles. Shrugs.). I think it kind of circles back to the way I answered those family members and friendly acquaintances so many months ago, a tiny lesson for all:  you can never have too many friends. 22 months or 22 years…you can never have enough friends.

Look around you. Take just a minute to look around you in the room of life. Look at the people sitting right next to you. Look at everybody else in the room. How many friends do you have? Real friends. People for whom you would change 18 years of your weekly pattern in order to cram in as much time as you possibly could with them, doing whatever. Not many, eh? Me either, frankly. 22 months or 22 years, shoulder-to-shoulder or face-to-face, a friend is just worth it.

Ours was a very private friendship. I don’t think Ken’s kids really knew what to make of this guy showing up every Tuesday, and I’m pretty sure that Amy felt that her Tuesday request had gone a little overboard! I’m not an awkward guy, a guy prone to social discomfort, but I admit to not really knowing how, or if, I should remain connected with Amy and the kids. At best we remain friendly acquaintances as we were before, and I apologize if my absence, caused by this awkwardness, is puzzling or uncomfortable. Honestly, I don’t really know how to play that. I AM open to suggestions, though! (Smiles)

In the end, as the doctor in us both expected, we ran out of time. Those well–wishers who were concerned about me in the beginning were absolutely right; I am heartbroken. I do miss Ken. I do miss my friend. But those well–wishers were also wrong because I am now MORE than what I was 22 months ago because of our friendship. In many ways we are, at least in part, a sum of our friendships. Through the lucky happenstance of my schedule and the generosity of his family, I got to be Ken Lee’s friend for 22 months.  It doesn’t matter when in life you get one, and it doesn’t matter how long you get to keep them, you can never have enough friends. I guess THAT’S why you’re here listening to this guy, just to hear that little message from me. And from Ken.

It hits me every now and again, especially around lunchtime, and especially on Tuesdays. 22 months of Tuesday’s. The 22 months when I had one more friend than I have today. 22 months that I would do over in a heartbeat, just like we did, even knowing how much it was going to hurt.

You can never have enough friends.

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