There’s no friend quite like an old friend.
Someone who knows all your old stories, can rehash them at length, but also wants to know what you’ve been up to lately. Who remembers things about you that you’ve conveniently forgotten, and is only too happy to refresh your memory. Who stood by you when you needed a friend, and trusted you to do the same in return. Who doesn’t always have to be in touch to keep in touch, and picks up wherever you left off. Who may not look quite the same as when you first met, but hasn’t changed a bit at heart. Who loved the person you were long ago _ major flaws and bonehead mistakes included _ and loves just as much the person you’ve become.
An old friend is such a gift.
Mark and Mike grew up together. Their parents were the best of friends. From childhood through high school, the boys hung out together. Playing catch in the yard on steamy summer nights. Skim boarding at the beach on family vacations. Watching their dads play dominoes. Listening to their mothers laugh together out in the kitchen. And always having Mark’s kid sister, Lynn, begging to tag along.
I met Mike a dozen years ago, after Mark and I started dating. We went to a football game at Notre Dame University, where Mark’s niece and Mike’s son were students. Their families flew in to join forces to pull for the Irish over Navy, and to make a few more memories.
It was possibly the coldest day of my life. But it was warmed by the love I saw in those families and the fact that Notre Dame won. I liked seeing how Mark fit into the weave of that fabric of family and friends. I decided that weekend, if he asked me to marry him, I just might say yes. He waited another year to ask.
We live on the edge of Las Vegas. Mike lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., four hours away. We’ve visited him and gone to a spring training game for the Giants. He’s stayed with us when he’s in Vegas on business.
Not all our visits have been for pleasure. In recent years, there’ve been memorial services for Mark’s parents and Mike’s dad. But old friends show up for each other for all sorts of reasons, come what may, for football games and funerals alike.
This time, Mike wanted to take us to a Van Morrison concert at Caesars Palace on the Strip. I love Van Morrison. But I recently had ankle surgery and did not want to limp 20 miles, give or take, through Caesars Palace. Besides, I figured they’d have fun, even without me.
I was right. They had a great time. Then they came home and stayed up half the night playing dominoes, like their dads.
I wish you could’ve heard them. I certainly did.
The next morning we drank coffee, the three of us, while they talked about music, all the great performers they have heard over the years, and still hope to hear. Mostly, I just listened.
We had spent some time earlier, when Mike first arrived, catching up on our families: Mike’s mom, his brother, his children; Mark’s sister and her family; our kids and grandkids.
We had also spent a while _ Mike and I, while Mark was at music practice for his band _ mulling over solutions for various world problems.
We had covered all the bases. Finally, it was time for Mike to go. He hugged us and promised to come back soon. Then he was gone, until next time.
That’s always the hardest thing, when old friends get together; sooner or later, you have to say goodbye.
It was a lovely visit. We hope to do it again soon. And one of the best things about it?
After Mike left, I realized: I need to call a few of my old friends.