One of my childhood friends turns 80 today. I first met him on a Saturday morning. He was hanging with with a group of other friends who were all okay, I guess, but I liked him more than the others. He was smarter than I was, braver, nicer, and he even dressed cooler. As I would learn, there were some other people who hated him–always picking fights and trying to hurt him–but they were easy to dismiss. Most of them looked and acted like weirdos.
When my friend moved, we no longer had Saturday mornings to play, but we still got to hang out together at the local library. That’s where I felt like I really got to know him. At the library, he told me about things he had done through the years, from the ’30s through the ’70s. Sometimes he was serious, sometimes funny. But he was always cool.
When we both moved away, I hated giving up those library meetings most of all. But my friend never seemed to stay out of my life for long. In fact, when I was a teenager, he returned. He was older, but then again, so was I. And our friendship changed. I think he felt I was finally old enough to see the real him. He told me things about himself that I had never thought about before. He seemed more real to me, and even though I started to see some of his flaws, I felt like our bond had grown stronger.
He even told me about his early life—including the first year he started working at his job—which was a lot more complicated that the stories he had first told me in the library all those years ago. He also told killer jokes in those days, and some of his stories were so mind-bending that I teased him and said he really belonged in an asylum.
When I went away to college, we saw less of each other. I knew he was doing some back-breaking work in those days, but for whatever reason, I found his stories a lot less interesting. Don’t get me wrong. We still got together, particularly on holidays, and he even sent me a wedding invitation not long ago, though that didn’t really work out.
It’s a friendship. And like most friendships, it’s had its ups and downs. But the bond remains forever. In a way, he’s become a part of me—a better (and occasionally worse) version of myself.
Perhaps he’s your friend as well. If so, then I hope you’ll enjoy sharing these memories with me and raise your voice with mine in wishing him the happiest of birthdays.