Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What is a True Friend?

Those of you out there who fancy yourselves sticklers about the English language (and I am actually one myself) will probably take issue with the title of this post.  I am not sure if it's good English or not.  I mean, can a "friend" be a "what?" 

But I titled this post that way because I don't want to just talk about friendship, I want to talk about how to be a true friend, what qualities that constitutes.  And I also want to pay tribute to someone who passed away recently who embodied all of those qualities.

When I was a young girl, I remember my mother telling me that we are lucky if, when we die, we have true friends that we can count on one hand.  I thought that was very odd because at the time I had many friends that were besties.

Now that I am a woman of a certain age, I know what my mother meant.  If we are lucky, we all have many friends throughout our lives.  But as we get older, our lives take us away from our friends or our friends leave us, so that when we find ourselves nearing the end of our lives, few are left and we are fortunate indeed if we can count five true friends still in our sphere.

We have different kinds of friends and for various reasons.  We might have friends because we share common interests or we have work friends or people who are friends because their kids are on our kids' soccer team or we might consider our neighbors our friends.  But when it comes to our true friends, what we love about them and expect from them is more than just common interests, our work, the soccer team or their living close by. A true friend is so much more than that.

My friend Jim, who passed away last week, was one such person, a true friend for 47 years.

I first met him during my senior year of college.  He was an antiques dealer who had a studio next to his home where he lived with his mother. He was from, as they say, old money.  He was the epitome of a gentleman and dressed like one. He often wore a jaunty hat, carried a cane (often one with a secret compartment) and sometimes sported spats!

He hired college students from my college to be night watchmen at his studio, because it was filled with beautiful and valuable furniture and art objects.  The studio was not open to the public nor did he have a staff. The studio was open by appointment only as he sold mostly to other dealers. Jim would hang out in the studio.  It was his place of business, after all, but I think he also hung out there to have a social life away from his aging mother, whom he felt responsible for and was taking care of. He enjoyed socializing and, because Jim had great charisma, those college watchmen and their friends would hang out there with Jim at night. It was 1970 and I was one of those kids who came to know Jim that way.

When I first met Jim, I thought he was really old.  I realize now he was only about 15 years older than I was, but through my 21 year-old-eyes, everyone over 30 looked old to me.  The studio was a wonderland of colonial era highboys and art and beautiful objects.  We played billiards on an antique billiards table, backgammon on a 17th century mother-of-pearl inlaid backgammon table and had fun trying on his collection of hats. 

As night fell, the studio was a source of mystery to passersby who would press their noses against the glass to see who and what was inside.  He called those people "the children of the night."  I think that's what he called us too.

Over the years that followed college, my husband and I lived in the studio briefly as caretakers, but when I moved back to California to find my first library job, I lost touch with Jim for a few years, but when I discovered he had moved to California, we started up where we left off and have been in touch regularly for the last 41 years.

I spent many evenings with him and others playing cards and games (his version of Mahjong was a particular favorite) and laughing.  Lots of laughter. Jim had a wonderful sense of humor and a warmth that made people gravitate to him.  He was also extremely thoughtful. He never missed phoning me on my birthday, and when my son was born, he bought him his first stroller. I took my parents to meet him; He walked me down the aisle when I married Hubby in his back garden,

and when I was going through a bad divorce he gave me comfort.  He was thoughtful and caring and that is why he had so many friends. Everywhere he went, people just wanted to be around him.  He had friends in the highest social stratosphere and friends with no money, but they were all interesting and loved Jim. 

One of my favorite stories about him is when he was helping me move.  He suffered from narcolepsy, so it was not unusual for him to nod off briefly during conversations, but he took medication that allowed him to drive.  So he was driving a U-Haul truck for me, helping me move away from a place and a marriage.  I was chatting away as we were driving the 30+ miles to my new home when I suddenly realized he wasn't responding to me.  I nudged him and said "Jim!" really loudly. He had nodded off! He said he didn't remember anything for the last five miles!

I attended a few antiques shows with Jim and was always amazed at his eye and his taste.  He would find the most interesting items and always knew exactly what they were.  He would hold up an item and ask me if I knew what it was.  I didn't and he would say, "It's a utensil especially for separating the sections of a grapefruit!"  Or something like that.  He was highly respected in the antiques world as a man who knew the provenance of practically everything and as someone who was extremely fair and honest.

When I moved from California to Seattle, we still stayed in touch regularly and when we would visit, he would always share some wonderful object with me.

This is my favorite.  Do you know what it is? 
(see the end of this post for the answer).

So many happy memories.  I could go on and on, but the point of this post is not just to pay tribute to my friend, though I hope it does. 

What I want to do here is plant a seed, to get you thinking about the people who are and have been your true friends. 

What is a true friend?

  • A true friend is always there for you, always takes your calls
  • A true friend lights up when she sees you
  • A true friend is your own personal cheerleader
  • A true friend is happy for your success and happiness even if he or she is not happy or successful
  • A true friend listens to you and cares about your feelings
  • A true friend makes time for you so you can create some memories together
  • A true friend goes out of his way for you
  • A true friend is thoughtful and generous
  • A true friend rarely lets you down
  • A true friend loves you warts and all

Jim was a true friend and a true gentleman.


I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Now that I have planted the seed, I want this post to be a cautionary tale for you, so that you will tell YOUR true friends how much they mean to you because they will not be around forever. Do it now before it's too late so you will not have any regrets. Even though I have lived 1000 miles away from Jim for the past 12 years, I visited him several times a year, and in his last year of life when he was suffering, I am so glad I was able to be there with him, to share our memories, tell him I loved him and how much his friendship meant to me. Those moments and all of the memories of our friendship comfort me now, and I have no regrets other than that he is no longer on this earth and I wish I had had more time with him.

So my mother was right.  Now that I am nearing 70 and every year on earth with my friends is a blessing, I consider myself lucky for the small group of true friends I have and have had.  It takes effort to have true friends.  You have to make time in your busy schedule to be together so you can create memories, but it's worth it, because when that true friend is gone, you will have those memories to keep you company.

So do it now.  It's the day after Memorial Day.  Why not also remember your friends who are still with you and make sure they know you cherish them?!

Oh, and that treasured object?  It's an elegant and old, but defunct $100,000 chip from the casino in Monte Carlo.  But it is priceless to me, just like my true friend, Jim!


Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday

for my review of

"The Nice Guys"



 The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on


"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Friends: Old and New

I am reading a memoir ("Before the Year Dot") by my favorite soap star on my favorite British soap.  June Brown is the actress and "Eastenders" is the soap. (I have been watching that show for over 25 years, since it was first introduced to American audiences on PBS).

In her memoir she says about old friends,

"In the end I lost touch with most of my school friends but when you meet people who were your childhood friends you just pick up where you left off.  You have your childhood in common and your youth - there is an understanding there that you don't share with friends you make when you are older.  Your childhood friends know you as you were - before the baggage of life and age attached itself."

I latched onto that because I think it is so true.

I have been fortunate enough to keep in touch with some childhood friends over the years and have found many more of my old friends through Facebook.  I know there are many of you out there who believe Facebook is evil, and that might be true to a certain extent, but Facebook has also put me back in touch with those childhood friends who knew me as I was..."before the baggage of life and age attached itself."  And we have indeed picked up where we left off, sharing memories and getting to know our new selves, the ones with baggage. 

It's funny, though, what each of us remembers and what each of us has forgotten.  For example, my college roommate and I used to play a card game (Nertz) almost every night our Freshman year, a card game that SHE taught ME.  I recently asked her about the scoring.  I remember how to play the game, but I couldn't remember how it was scored.  SHE NOT ONLY DID NOT REMEMBER THE SCORING SHE DIDN'T REMEMBER PLAYING THAT GAME WITH ME AT ALL!

But I can forgive her.  Memories are strange things.  We retain some; discard others.  Some mean more to me; some mean more to them. Some get tarnished or embellished with time.

I have many happy memories.  I have learned a lot from my friends - old and new.

Here is what we were like before age and "the baggage" set in and some things I learned from them.

One of my very early friends was Bobby, who lived down the alley from us.  We used to play Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the rock garden next door to his house.  His family had a bomb shelter in their back yard.  That's when I started worrying about the bomb.


When I was seven, we moved, and my best friend was another boy - Chucky.  He lived around the block from me and his family also had a collie, except it was one of those black and brown collies.  His name was Buzzy.  Here Buzzy and Echo (our collie) are playing and running free as dogs did in those days. Chucky and I acted out all of the "Twins" books ("The Dutch Twins," "The American Twins of the Revolution," etc. ) by Lucy Fitch Perkins.  They were boy and girl twins so that fit perfectly into our dramatizations.  We also played with my dolls together. His Dad didn't like that.  I learned much later that Chucky was one of the early victims of AIDS.


Barbie was one of my best friends in elementary and middle school.  You can see how much I liked her because I am photo bombing the picture with my fingers behind her head (someone should bomb my glasses and hair).  She and her family (that's her sister in the foreground with the glasses) lived in a fantastic mansion with a ballroom on the top floor, and we would go up there and play dress up and get up to all kinds of mischief.  I remember loving her mother. 

Barbie and I went to camp together when we were seven.  I was a fussy eater and we were required to take at least one bite of everything served to us. I would gag just thinking about it.  I also couldn't swim and was not good at making lanyards.  I think it got to be too much, and I humiliated myself by crying for my Mom.  When I was trying to go to sleep at night I would see tuna fish sandwiches and my mother's face swirling around and it was more than I could bear.  They let me call my Mom and then I managed to make it for the rest of the time.  Barbie never held that against me.


First big crush.  In grade school he called me a freckled faced monster and I hit him with my bucket purse.  But here we are older - 7th grade.  I asked him to a Sadie Hawkins type dance and he said yes. He taught me to like nice, tall, handsome boys.

Janice was one of my best friends since middle school (we called it Junior High in those days).  She was the first to like Bob Dylan (I'm talking 8th grade here and we were so sophisticated we loved his "Baby Let Me Follow You Down"), when even the DJ's didn't know who he was and didn't pronounce his name properly - they called him Bobby Die-lyn.  She wrote wonderful poetry and was very intellectual. We worked on the problems of the world.  We even started a school Philosophy Club together.  She taught me what it was to be cool.

Another best friend, Linda, was an only child so her parents took me on lots of trips with them - Chicago, Florida, New England.  I have so many memories, but one in particular was her showing me how to shave my legs and some other girl stuff.  My mother was clueless when it came to that kind of thing.  Linda taught me what it was to be a loving friend.

We are the smarty pants being inducted into the Honor Society but starting to show our rebellious side.   Long story about Charles Hackley.

Speaking of rebellious, it's the late 60's.  My roommate in college.  Poor girl.  She wanted a non-smoking roommate, but I couldn't say I smoked on my college application. My mother would see.  I remember my parents dropping me off on the first day and then when they left, flopping down in a chair and with my best Tallulah Bankhead impression (I was very dramatic) saying to her, "By the way, I smoke and I sleep with my boyfriend."  What could she do?  So we became best friends.  She taught me about being a loyal friend even when I was a pain in the butt.

And here we are at Thanksgiving at my parent's home. She lived on the West Coast and we were in college in Michigan so she came home with me.  We are thinking we are very cool in our "kooky" sunglasses.  And, Mom, what's with that wallpaper?

Right after college, I moved to San Francisco.  That was what everyone from Michigan was doing in those days.  My first job was working for the Bank of America and Jeanne was my best friend there.  She was a Californian. She just about choked on her lunch when I said I wanted some "pop," meaning a soft drink.  She also couldn't believe anyone would eat doughnuts with apple cider, a Fall highlight of my growing up years in Michigan.  She taught me it was OK to be opinionated and not to suffer fools.  I liked that.  I just found her recently on Facebook after over 40 years.  We just picked up where we left off.

After a horrible divorce that left me devastated, I met soon-to-be Hubby and his friends and they took me on.  Let's just say it was the 80's.  They taught me how to party again.


When Hubby was immersed in the computer industry, he traveled to the UK frequently and I got to tag along.  We made many friends there.  They taught us that some things travel well:  friendship. 

If you read my blog post on my Swedish heritage, you know all about my cousin Jane. Having her in my life has been a great gift. She looked after my son when he studied in Sweden, she and her husband have made the effort to travel with us in Europe and she is that wonderful link to my mother's Swedish side of the family.   

And as for new friends... ten years ago, Hubby and I took a leap and moved to a completely new city, not knowing anyone.  We had heard that people in Seattle were friendly and polite, but not likely to invite you over for BBQ.  That is true to a certain extent, but despite the difficulty of meeting and making friends when you are older and encumbered with that aforementioned baggage, we have some wonderful friends who have welcomed us over for BBQ!

So many wonderful friendships in my life, and I am so glad I am still in touch with many of the people I have known over the years, even if it's just in cyberspace. Barbie, Candy, Lois, Janice, Linda, Rick, Ralph, Paul, Jeanne, David, Stephen, Dan, Bob, John, Leslie, Bill, Glenn, Steve, Judy, Lois, Lesley, Myra, Janie, Chris, Jim and John. So many more and too many new faces to list here.

No matter what you feel about the Internet or Facebook or any form of social media, it does have the power to bridge the time gap, to reach out over time and bring back happy memories and reunite us with those who knew our young and pure selves, before we had all of that baggage to carry.

Thinking about them all, I am wondering if our memories of each other would be the same.  If they remember the same things that I remember.  What remains and what has fallen away?
My 50th High School Reunion will take place in 2016 and I plan to attend so I can see my "childhood" friends in person once again.  And you know what?  I think we will just pick up where we left off!
Have you reunited with your childhood friends?
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie
 and my
Week in Reviews
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at