Monday, February 08, 2010


In the beginning there was Dave. All of the friends that came before Dave really did not count. I was too young, as were they. We did not know what friendship was about. Dave lived 4 houses to my right as I was navigating the first part of my teenage years. He looked more like me than my brother did and so everybody assumed that we were brothers. We kind of were. Brothers of the heart. We would play catch for hours and never get tired. When my real brother would beat me up (which was not an infrequent occurance) Dave would run home and hide. He said he was afraid that my brother would mistake the two of us and beat him up instead of me. That made sense at the time and I never held it against him. Dave was in my wedding years later. The last time I saw him was when he came by my apartment to introduce me to his fiancee. There was no way on the planet that Dave should have been marrying this girl. He was either in to her for big money or it was going to be a "sympathy marriage." I never saw or heard from him again.

Next came Kling. Kling was short for "Klingensmith" which was his last name. His first name was John but I don't remember anybody ever calling him that. Kling and I went to college together. He was about 5 years older than I and served as a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam. Together we went to Trinity Christian College. Our team mascot was the "Trolls." If you picture a troll in your head and add 50 pounds to him you will know exactly what Kling looked like. Beard and all. He liked to have fun. His on-campus job was in the maintenance department. That gave him keys to everything students are not supposed to have keys to. One chilly morning the campus woke up to the smell of a nice fire in the chapel fireplace. That was not unusual. What WAS unusual was that the smoke was billowing from a toilet which had been cemented to the chimney of the administration building. I remember knowing instantly who had done it. Everybody suspected but nobody could confirm anything. Kling and I went to a local restaurant one day to grab a bite before evening classes. He chose the New Brunswick Stew. One thing about Kling is that he had cornered the market on Oshkosh over-alls. It was pretty much all he ever wore. Well, Kling did not finish his stew on this particular evening and I watched as he poured the remainder of it into his bib pocket. I was not shocked. I knew Kling. I figure he wanted it for a late night dorm snack. I WAS shocked when we went to pay for our meal. He stood at the glass counter with the cash register on it ... and began heaving the big deep heaves of a man about to regurgitate. He leaned down until his head almost touched the glass and made unmistakable "hurling" noises... while he unbuttoned his bib pocket and allowed the remaining stew to flow out. The he stood up, wiped his mouth, dropped a five on the counter and strolled out the door. Kling was in my wedding too. That was the last time I saw him. I heard he lives in Utah someplace.

I have a history of making interesting friends.

Most of them come, stay for a while, and then go.

Grace was a dainty woman in her sixties and she made chainsaws. Hoss was a TWA pilot who could not stand on a chair to change a light bulb because of his fear of heights. Mike was a messianic jew who swore at 5,000 teenages because one of them threw a light bulb into the street from the window of a hotel room on the 20th floor. He was not sure which one did it so he swore at them all.

I think you get the picture.

My favorite friends are the ones that stick around. For years. Many years. Oh, they might move a thousand miles away but they are still around in that surprise phone call one evening kind of way. They manage to find their way by my house every now and then and they always have a spare bedroom available when I am in their town. Some of them live nearby. We try not to take each other for granted but I know that we do. Otherwise we would hug more often and linger a little longer across the table from each other. It is part of life to do that. We don't mean to. It's just that our busy lives are constantly hounding us to get up and get something done. If you are reading this you are probably one of those friends or maybe a stranger that just dropped in to see what is going on. (Not much.) And if you are one of those friends ... you know it. I am tempted here to start listing names but if I did I would miss somebody very important to me for sure. And I do not want to do that. Never.

There are at least two tests of real friendship. One is found in what you do today. The other is found in whether or not you will still be around tomorrow. It works both ways and so I am equally responsible. I am not listing those tests in hopes that you will measure yourself. I am listing them so that I can remember to do well in grading the guy I call "me." It hurts when a friend lets me down. It hurts much worse when I let a friend down. I can forgive the friend much more easily than I can forgive myself.

And by the way, if you are a current friend and you do something really weird ... I already know it. I just didn't mention it because ... well ... a real friend wouldn't tell on you. But if you dump me ... you are toast in my next blog.


Doug said...

Hurray for Facebook's odd ability to link certain people together who would otherwise never meet ... or who otherwise should never have met. Something like that.

Ron said...

Amen, Doug! Amen! Well said.