How can this be? Our last meeting could not have taken place a year ago… it seems like just yesterday that we sat together and laughed and munched on brownies.
Although my too-short visit to Sharon, Ma., has come at an inconvenient time, a few of my old book club friends have managed to meet me. No one knows more than I the Herculean efforts that this entailed— schedules revised, family events put on hold, important matters juggled to open up a brief span of time. But here we are, comrades of over forty years, relaxed and happy in each other’s company.
Yesterday we laughed
or was it day before last?
Ah, the passing years.
Where would we be without friends? Recently there have been a spate of e-mail generated postings about friendship, but though these are funny and often poignant, they merely scratch the surface of something which a wise friend of mine once described as the ‘purest human connection.’
So… how to define friendship?
It has often been said that a true friend is someone who would not mind being awakened at two in the morning. In a crisis, I am grateful to know that there are several who would gladly step to the plate. There are many kind hearts, too, who offer their shoulder in times of grief, or who would bring food and consolation to those in need. But I think that the definition of friendship needs to add that a true friend is one who will wholeheartedly and joyously share in the triumphs, the accolades, and the happiness of another (or another’s children or grandchildren) without the slightest reservation. Friends who can share your grief are precious, but friends who can share your joys are beyond price.
I believe that we choose our friends not only because they are people we enjoy and admire but also because they have qualities to which we aspire. In a way, they are reflections of ourselves or ourselves as we wish we could be. As years pass and we mature, so do our friendships. An easy relationship becomes deeper because of shared life experiences, and we learn to know and appreciate each other’s foibles, follies, and strengths. We view all these with mutual humor and forbearance and tolerate the quirks in each other’s personalities with kindness.
Growing older is no joke, but it has this one benefit—that in the friendships we form we become richer, happier, and better in ourselves until we come close to that wonderful old parable of a man who comes to his friend’s gate and finds it barred. When asked who is there, he answers, “It is I.” The door remains barred. The man thinks awhile and then knocks again. The same question is repeated, but this time he answers, “It is yourself.”
And the door opens.