Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Friendship and Home. “Sunday musings…” 9/2/2023

1 Calumny. Slander with the express purpose of damaging someone’s reputation.

Lotta that going around in the news these days, eh?

2 Parakeet. A young Parrothead.

3 Parrothead. Devoted fan of Jimmy Buffet. An implied homage (or rip-off depending on your POV) of “Deadhead”.

Buffet, who died early yesterday morning, was arguably one of the most beloved musicians of the last 40+ years. He, and his songs, evoked a life lived with few cares, usually near or on a beach, often “three sheets to the wind” after consuming several tropical drinks. His more famous songs portrayed an idyllic existence driven by nothing more complex than sunrise, sunset, and which way the wind might be blowing. He parlayed his music, his image, and his fame into a business empire that included restaurants (seems like every airport south of the Mason-Dixon Line has a Margaritaville in Concourse B), apparel, and real estate (over-55 communities called…wait for it…Margaritaville).

And yet, such was the depth of his goodwill that no one seemed to begrudge him the spoils of his success.

I think that’s because deep down Jimmy Buffet really did realize how lucky he turned out to be. On top of that, I really do believe that he would have lived a less opulent version of the same life (like, for example, my college pal Herb I, the journalist/sailor) had he not been quite so financially fortunate. It’s easier to think this if you dig a bit below the Top 40 surface of his musical canon and listen to some of the quieter, more introspective pieces known only by more ardent fans like my friends DSJ and Starsky. Search Spotify for “The Captain and the Kid” or “Death of an Unpopular Poet” and you’ll get an idea.

In a world littered with the unseemly behavior of the ultra-rich, so many of whom were born on 3rd base and thought they hit a triple, Jimmy buffet never seemed to lose sight of the fact that it was less the pursuit of an endless bounty so much as an endless summer. He once said “If [summer] somehow ended tomorrow I could somehow adjust to the fall,” a fitting epitaph, especially for those of us who lost a little bit of our own summers with his passing.

Fair winds and following seas Mr. Buffet. Thank you for sharing your endless summer. May you have an eternity of sunshine, and may it ever be 5:00 in your somewhere.

4 My folks uprooted me (and my siblings of course) after my freshman year in high school. In so doing they gave me a “bonus” reunion opportunity in perpetuity. Forevermore I would have the opportunity to choose between my two home towns every 5 years to visit with my oldest friends and acquaintances. This year brought a 45th reunion in one of the towns (the other passed), the one from which I graduated, but as I noted last week the last vestige of “home” in Rhode Island is now living in an assisted living community next door to my office.

This weekend I chose to visit that version of home each day, and hope to be forgiven by the 50 or so classmates who made the trip to Smitty’s spread.

The thought of returning home to Lincoln made me smile, actually. You may remember my joyful surprise after attending my 40; Beth and I had a ball. Thinking about old friends, especially the oldest of our friends got me to thinking about friendship in general, a recurring theme as both of you who read my drivel know well. It made me think of other times when memories of friends who linger and those who’ve been lost are pushed up like so many feeder fish surrounded by “bubble-feeding” humpback whales. (Google it…so cool). I am now 40+ years from calling Lincoln home; Mom is barely 2 weeks out. What does it take to maintain friendships from long ago and far away.

During our move to Casa Blanco 10 years ago, while purging 22 years of stuff from our house, I came across a tiny note from someone who’d been a close friend in childhood. It was addressed “Hello, my Eternal Friend.” I’d not seen this friend, nor had we directly communicated, in more than 30, now 40 years. It got me to thinking about really enduring friendships. What I’ve come up with is duration, distance, and durability. The three “D’s” of friendship. There were some very nice demonstrations of all three for Beth and me this week as we moved Mom into her Cleveland home, and reminisced about the homes we left to move here so long ago.

Distance is at once the easier and trickier of the three. Once upon a time distance was almost always a deal-breaker, at least if it was applied for too very long. Air travel was not accessible to most, and all of our electronic connections were just predictions on the pages of a science fiction novel. No email, texting, or PM…folks kept in touch via what we now call snail mail and hard line long-distance phone calls. The phone calls were brutally expensive (anyone remember waiting until 7:00 PM on Sunday when the rates when down to call home?), which turned some friendship into something called pen pals. You wrote on a piece of paper with something called a pen, put it in the envelope which then went in something called a mailbox, and then you waited/hoped a letter would return. Distance was a big friendship killer back in the day. Now? Not so much.

Duration is the goal, and durability is the barrier. How durable, how resilient is your friendship? Can it withstand the challenges and demands presented by our always-on communication? Indeed, are our myriad ways of “connecting” over whatever distance exists sufficient to nurture a friendship for the ages? How about age, infirmity, different levels of success or diverging life goals? New interests that may not be shared? What are the characteristics of those truly eternal friendships that make them so?Well, judging by our experiences since my last Reunion there are probably a couple of other “D’s” that apply: Desire and Delight. How much do both parties want the friendship to endure, and how delighted are they when they actually connect, really connect, face to face, no matter how old the friendships might be?

Beth and I have friends who live in the town next door to Lincoln. Around the time of my last reunion we had our own delight in the evening when we dined with a 45 year friend of my mine (35 years for Beth), brought together by mutual desire, delighted by the lack of distance our visit created. That particular friendship is still durable enough to withstand a glass of red wine spectacularly spilled on a white shirt five minutes into dinner! Bob, my friend, reached out on the day we moved Mom to wish us luck, and to ask if we might still return to my “ancestral home” every now and again to visit. And if it would be ok if they hopped on a plane to visit Mom.

And us.

So how about my “Eternal Friend” from childhood? Is the friendship still there, a tiny ember burning beneath the cold ashes of time? Ah, we were so young. We had no concept of what “eternal” really meant. We, certainly I, had no idea what it would take to carry a friendship for an eternity, regardless of how much we might have wanted it to continue. Sometimes friendships just slip away, like my “Eternal Friend”. Those that don’t end up being just a little bit more of everything by dint of duration. They are durable. They’ve passed the test of time.

We don’t get many of these very special friendships, but when we do get one, or get the chance to forge a new one, we have every right to be delighted by every little part of whatever makes that friendship work. Like my Mom and the couple of friends she’d known for 50 years who dropped by to wish her well on her new adventure. Like my friend Bob (and his lovely Kathy), who never did get that red wine stain out of his shirt. Or my friend Bill who moved away for work but wants to know when he can come up from Cincinnati to build me a wine cellar, and my friend Rob who was on the fence about a golf trip will travel with me to Ireland so that he can be there as I return to the first tee.

You can never have enough friends, or work hard enough to keep ’em, especially if they’ve truly been around for an eternity.

I’ll see you next week…

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