Friday, January 07, 2011


I'm not a snoop. I swear. But my daughter has used my computer to log onto Facebook, and the cookie must be there. I go to websites, and I'm recognized as one who I'm not. I can be a 22 year old if I like. But, I have no desire to be a 22 year old, nor the need to express my 'like' or 'dislike' at the touch of a button. Such is the power of Facebook and other social venues that relieves us of the ability of thinking about or countering 'stuff' with well-considered points and counterpoints. Why bother? Just click an f'n button for goodness sake. Take a shortcut.

I'm not on Facebook. My daughter, who is 27 years younger than I am, has 740 friends. I only found this out because it was staring me in the face on my computer. I might have 7 friends. Of those 7 friends, there are maybe 2 that I would confess my darkest secrets to, but I'd split them up. It is never a good thing to tell any one person all your deepest, darkest secrets. One must have proper diversification.

740.... It is a staggering number in its breadth. It is the metric of voyeurism that we have now achieved in our society where anyone with some passing molecule that abrades against our own in cyberspace is our 'friend.'

Last evening, I spent the evening with my girlfriend's family. She's my friend of 34 years. Her father is dying. She now lives in Northern Virginia; so I don't see her much. She is down to help her mother and sister care for their dying father.

I took some food and wine by. But we always catch up once a year, and it is always as if were were 17 again. We sat by the table--she, her mother and I. Her sister, 10 years younger, came by a little later. I told these people, who I have known since I was 16, how important they were to me in my life. They were kind to me when my home life was in tumult, and I needed their kindness. Their kindness was, in fact, a life preserver.

Their father, a wonderful man, who loves his family, so full of life and joy, is now so weak he cannot get out of bed. He has metastatic liver cancer, an unwelcome residual from his prostate cancer ten years ago.

They woke him up, and I was able to visit with him briefly. Still handsome: his face was smooth, and his white hair thick. I told him he was still the most handsome man I knew. I meant it. I held his hand, kissed his brow and stroked his hair. I thanked him for being so kind to me when I needed kindness.

Another dear man in my life who is 90 is also nearing the end of his life. I helped him write his obituary. We spent the a couple of weeks trading drafts--to say it just right. To codify a life of 90 years--a life filled with accomplishment and joy--to just a few paragraphs is an impossible task. But it is a process with deep meaning, great vitality and appropriate reverence, as it is the honoring of a life by giving voice to just a few highlights--reminder that our lives are to be lived rather than recounted.

Both of these men were influential in my life beyond my ability to measure much less say. Both are slipping away, as we all must do in due time.

I don't have 740 friends. I may not even have 7. But these two men are quite dear to me--being an influence and support in my life when it was important. I will not have the regret of having these two pass from my grasp without grasping their hand and kissing their cheek and telling both how important they were in my life.

The frontier of friendship has no horizon anymore. Oh, I have on-line friendships, and I cherish them. But even then, it doesn't approach 740--or a one-tenth of that.

If acquaintances are now friends, what is friendship? Who are friends? Friends love you and forgive you. I don't think that anyone has 740 friends to love and forgive them. And in return, you love and forgive your friends. You'd need a bountiful cup to love and forgive 740 people virtues and follies. If you can't...well, they are relegated to acquaintances.

I'm happy to have a few friends. I'm blessed to have had people in my life to mentor and inspire me. I'm sorry to have two friends who are holding tenuously to life. I'm honored to have known them. I'm thankful that I shared my appreciation of their friendship with them. And best of all, there were no shortcuts. The badge of friendship is earned with compassion, understanding and forgiveness--and sewn with the threads of tears and laughter. There are no buttons to press to convey those important things. There are no shortcuts to friendship. And when they slip away, the pain we feel is a reminder of their authenticity.

There is no greater charge in life than stepping up when asked the question: Who can you be a friend to?