Has it really been five years?

We’ve all got ’em.  Those friends who serve as the concrete pillars in our spiritual foundation.  Sometimes they are entirely transient – showing up for a brief period in our life, moving on, and dropping out of touch.  Perhaps a Christmas card, joke via e-mail…

Or they are woven into the fabric of our souls.  And are always there, even when we’re distracted by life and the associated shrapnel.  Something happens – signal from the Dog Planet or something – and we’re suddenly picking at that particular thread.  Acutely aware of the history, the connection… wondering…. having imaginary conversations… distractedly looking for a phone number online, or trying to find an old e-mail address…

JK and i first crossed paths almost 20 years ago on a project at work.  He was known for being a stickler for details – a “by the book” project engineer, diligent and highly competent.  He was a tough customer.  Me? A young*, extroverted** and high-energy geek with a lot of passion for technology, and a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-skirt” style. 

Needless to say, those who knew us were bracing for the impending train wreck. 

We certainly collided.  Him?  Speechless, turning red and choking Flustered by my brash, fearless “it’s good enough – let’s roll!” approach to the task at hand!  Me?  Frequently ready to strangle him frustrated because he’s gotten lost in the minutiae of the moment.  Crossing t’s and dotting i’s and pissing me the fuck off…

But we made a great team… him doing the actual work beating through details, and me garnering praise and glory working advocacy and customer connections.  And along the way?  Long conversations over beer… literature***, music, philosophy, theology, and art… discovered that this crispy, “tough customer” was pretty comfortable at an easel, with a messy stash of oils in front of him… 

Who would have guessed that inside that impenetrable exoskeleton of competency and functionality was a soft, squishy artist?

We’d work through project planning – and life – during our lunch hours, or on business trips.  He routinely kicked my ass sailing, or on roller blades.  Forcing me out of my physical comfort zone as well as my intellectual parking lot.

Imagine my delight when i got an e-mail from him two weeks ago?  And my further delight yesterday to stumble into our ‘usual’ lunching place , and have a chance to once again smother him with a big ol’ extrovert hug?   After 90 minutes of catching up – and we had LOTS of turf to cover since it had been 5 years since he retired – he noted that we’d perhaps covered 5%**** of the turf we need to cover…

i’m not letting another five years sneak past… It’s a good rule of thumb to hold tightly to these foundational people in your life…


* i was mid-30’s, going through my “Barbie” phase – had starved myself down to a size 8, wore mini-skirts and stiletto heels to the office.  in an uptight engineering shop?  just a bit disruptive… but BIG DAMN FUN from my side of the desk!  just crossing my legs during a meeting could make the presenter stutter, if not choke…

** also a bit of an anomaly in my world.  There’s an old joke – Q: How do you spot the extroverted engineer?  A: He looks at your shoes when he’s talking, rather than his own…

*** he forced encouraged me to read Joseph Campbell, Thoreau and other good stuff while i shoved pulp crap in his hands and forced encouraged him to lighten the fuck up…. And other than his momentary lapse by handing me The Bridges of Madison County (i believe it was an accident), he didn’t lead me astray.

**** i’m sure he did the mental calculation as we lunched.  it was probably 5% , +/- 0.5% margin of error…

16 thoughts on “Has it really been five years?

  1. It is hard work maintaining friendships, or acquaintanceships, even.

    Loved the reminisces, though. And the joke? Classic! Never heard that one before.

    I’ll leave any comment about “The Bridges of Madison County” to annie, though. She always has a lot to say about that book.

  2. The Bridges of Madison County? What a load of shite. I read a whole 15 pages and it took days to rid myself of the feeling of incredulous disgust. If a woman had written such tripe it would have been a paperback on the grocery rack at best.

    Rob likes the movie though.

  3. Love this post, the timing was perfect as I emerged from a morning of navel gazing and stressing. A good reminder to get in touch with some of those foundational people …

  4. this post makes me melancholy as i can name so few such pillars in my own life. you are very lucky to have reconnected so with one of yours.

    I don’t think i have an intellectual parking SPACE, let alone an intellectual parking LOT…

    and, P.S., ‘Bridges of Madison County’ was oversentimental tripe…

  5. unbearable banishment – it is work. but the good kind – with payoff! the harder bit of work for me? ridding myself of people who are bad… the arrogant, selfish, parasites that make no effort to help themselves… i wish i had a spray can full of “pest-b-gone” that would take care of that.

    rob – figured you’d get the ‘engineer’ bits… and suspect that you’re a high-performance ‘detail’ kind of engineer. i’d probably drive you batty in the workplace as well!

    annie – yes. pure, soul-crushing, insulin-depleting shite! he has fabulous taste in literature, but that one lapse? still a bit of a sore spot…

    tNb – i don’t always buy “fate” and “cosmic consciousness”, but it sure does seem that these people re-appear in my life at just the right time…

    gnu – suspect that your circumstances (frequent moves, substantial relationship constraints, family obligations) quashed some opportunities to connect… but you’re free… FREE! go find some freakin’ concrete, buddy!

    alex – distance makes it tougher. one of the reasons i maintain my old phone number is that i’ll STILL get a random call from old friends who only have that number. one i’ve had for 27 years!

    nm – seems we’re reaching consensus on the literary value of ol’ “Bridges”. but you’ve got to hand it to him – if i could hack up the lining of my colon onto print, sell millions of copies AND broker a movie deal? i’d be hoarking all the way to the bank. under a nom de plume, mind you…

  6. Ah, the joy of resuming contact with those rare people who do not fall by the wayside. Acquaintances tend to be short term, whereas those who last the distance are something special.

  7. It is pretty neat to hook up with a long lost friend…. I had a chance last summer to spend 6 days wandering Alaska with a kid I used to walk to first grade with … then college roommate…. there is certainly a spititual reawakening that occurs

  8. I maintained contact with one of my friends from Colorado for years after we left. We had a lot in common, as we were both married to cops. It’s a sorority of the few, especially in small towns. Had to give it up, however, when she just got too fundy on me. The Boyo and I actually stopped by their house when we were in Colorado in ’01, and visited with her husband. But about the time he mentioned boycotting Levi’s because they offered domestic partner benefits, we suddenly had to leave. It’s good that you can still connect on similar ground.

  9. Never a truer word said.
    You know, I love my stuff – the pretty shiny toys I’ve bought with the wages I’ve earned, and over the years I’ve broken, lost or written off more than my fair share of books, cd’s dvds, artworks and cars (well, maybe just the one car. And it was a scratch, ratehr than a w/off, but I digress…)
    And every time, it hurt.
    But nothing in my life has ever hurt – and is still hurting today (I’m tearing up tuping this) – more than the friend I lost touch with, who died in terrible pain and whose mother, at her own daughter’s funeral came to me to tell me how much her daughter had valued our friendship, and how glad she (the mother) was that her daughter had had a friend like me.

    Stuff is stuff. It really doesn’t matter.
    People? Well, I’ll go now before I start doing my Streisand impersonation 8)

  10. I’ve been thinking a lot about those people. How I’ve let them slip away because I’m too busy crossing “i”s and dotting “t”s (which could be part of the problem 🙂 ) It’s too important though. Been thinking too much.

  11. Luka – thanks for stopping by The Park! Since my family is what it is, i count on these foundational friends to keep me grounded… it’s wonderful to have them.

    Mike – Welcome to The Park! That’s a long friendship – i have two friends from my childhood like that… we don’t remember meeting because we played together as babies! We literally grew up together – and that can lead to a powerful bond! sounds like a great adventure!

    silverstar – “Born Again and Intolerant” is perhaps the one thing that could disrupt such a connection. A few years ago, i stalked tracked down a close friend from high school when i was in Pasadena. She and i met for dinner – and i started the conversation with “i just want you to know that i’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior” and she stood up to leave! The “JUST FUCKING WITH YOU!” i shouted after her had us both laughing so hard we had tears streaming down our faces…

    derek – awww… i got a little leaky eyed reading that… but you’re right, it’s the people that matter. people with cool stuff are pretty nifty, too 🙂 Now, let’s see that Streisand!

    dolce – i’ve been thinking that i’ve been thinking way too much… the holidays are annoying on many levels, but the best reason to drop a random christmas card or two is just to see who calls! don’t forget to stick an e-mail address in there for the folks you really want to track down…

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