When my best friend moved to Salt Lake City we both knew it meant the end of a way of life, of late nights at our favorite bar, long heartfelt phone postmortems, intimate familiarity, fierce loyalty – sisterhood bordering on romance.
For a while I was bereft. But life swept on, of course, and forced me to accept the relationship’s diminished form, the occasional calls and letters dwindling even more when she married.
But here’s a funny thing: whenever we do talk now, the old charge blazes again like a gas jet turned up, and we lapse easily into the rhythms of a language we invented over many years.
That’s the miracle: it can transcend the obstacles; it can come back. When a girlhood pal of mine moved to a nearby city with her young daughter, we were shy at first as we poked awkwardly at each other’s histories, each trying to fill in the monstrous gaps. But soon our friendship took on momentum, swallowing up those intervening years as we began to see that we were roughly parallel veterans with comparable scars, and now the relationship warms us like a crackling hearth. For 25 years neither of us had any idea what had become of the other; now we have to check in every few days…
Lovers and even some family members may come and go, but the friendships that take root abide. Sometimes the best of what is true survives as if it had an independent will: the coals of friendship keep themselves alive until something happens to rekindle them. Other liaisons endure only because we shovel backbreaking amounts of love and time and attention into them, like fuel into a voracious engine.
But however they form, over time the most powerful connections prove unshakable. These are the friends who take us to the hospital, watch our kids, bring us food and money, praise and coach us, fly out for the wedding, welcome our newborns, and bury our dead – who come to collect us to sleep it off, and never imply we are less for it. It’s a saving grace, whether visited or earned.
An article on enduring friendships, reprinted in the “Modern Maturity” magazine