Chapter 61: Bosom Buddies

My Best Friend had Heart Surgery this week…

I don’t like to think of us as old enough to have to face these issues, but I guess we are…

And “Best Friend” is a very inclusive, non-exclusive term for me…I have several.

First and foremost is Steve, my partner and soulmate.  He’s in a class by himself.

I have another friend, who is a “Best Friend”, who goes back more years than I care to count, but she’s like my “Female Best Friend”.

This guy is, I guess the best way to put it, my “Male Best Friend”.   He’s the Brother I never had…

Friendship is not something I take lightly.  Most of my “Best Friends” today have been my friends for years.  Some of us go back to Mrs. Touchstone’s kindergarten in Danville, Va.

I don’t let a lot of people get close to me, but once I do, you are a friend for life.

I have special “Best Friends” who I love from Mrs. Touchstone’s, from High School and from College years at W&L and Sweet Briar.  They mean more to me than I can ever explain.  Some of them may not even know it, but I will- and in some cases have- gone through hell for them.  I am fierce in my dedication to my Friends.

If they need me, I will be there.  It is more than a point of Honor, it’s just how I am…

To me, Friends make life worthwhile….I’ve never been one for shallow or casual relationships of any type.  Life is too short to spend time on people who don’t truly matter to you….

My friends have become my Family…

I lost most of the people in my birth family to whom I was really close back in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  My Grandmother and my Aunt Goldie chief among them…

My Friends became even more important then….

To me, Family is more than who you are related to….You don’t chose that.  You have obligations, genetic bonds and shared history with some folks, but they still just don’t get you.  And you know you don’t  get them- and/or can’t depend on them….

I’m a firm believer in “families of choice” and I have been blessed with a crazy, special group of people who make up that family.  I have almost always been closer to my “family of choice” than to my crazy, mixed-up birth family.

I have been on an emotional high alert for over a week since I first found out one of my friends had heart problems and was in the hospital.  To protect his privacy, I will just refer to him as “My Friend.”

He is a very self-contained man who hates to admit any weaknesses.  He doesn’t even want most people to know he is having heart surgery.

So, I am telling people he is in the hospital for a face lift and liposuction…They are going to wonder why he doesn’t look better when he gets out, but that is his problem…

My Friend and I go back at least 30 years.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I like to think we’ve always been there for each other.  I know he was for me…

We have also had our battles over the years….We are too much alike, in so many ways and so very different in others….but we are friends first, last and always.

Neither of us lets too many people get close to us.  We are judgmental.  We are independent.  We are, to an extent, loners and we are fierce.

I hide my fierceness better than he does.  I have a layer of Southern charm and finesse I was raised to use that I can’t shake.  He is much more up front.  I’ve always admired that in him, but I am who I am and recognize the benefits of being able to finesse things without confrontation.  His default is attack, mine is to manipulate…I’m more Old South Charm and Graciousness, he is more New South In-Your-Face and confrontational.

And he’s going to be really pissed if he reads this….

He is more private than I am, which is saying a lot,  but this is my outlet….

I can’t begin to tell you how much this guy means to me.  With over 30 years of history, we have been through the good times and the bad times together.  I simply cannot imagine my life without him in it somewhere- background or foreground.

We were young together and I always assumed we would be old together.  For a moment, that seemed like such a conceited assumption.  I’m glad it’s now a probability…

We have shared a difficult journey.  When we were young and in my home town just after college, he was much more open about being Gay.  We would spend a lot of time together at parties and at our houses, but seldom “in public.”  If my “straight” friends asked about him and if I knew him, I would deny we were friends.  I denied him many more times than Peter denied Jesus.  And he would hang on the cross about it, but get over it…

I had one really bad year right after college and he did something I will never forget.  It remains the one of the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me….

I love Christmas and always want it to be festive and perfect.  There was one year, in my twenties, when I was depressed, broke and living in my late Grandmother’s house.  I was going to ignore Christmas that year.  Until I came home one night and he had come in and put up a wonderful, real, fully decorated Christmas tree.  I still almost cry when I remember that…

We were young together.  We would hit the bars, go our separate ways and regroup to share tales of our adventures behind dark glasses with cigarettes and Bloody Mary’s over brunch the next day….

Time passed and we both ended up in Greensboro.  He and his partner at the time- primarily his partner- were determined to be “A Gays”.  For the non-cogniscenti, that means socially prominent Gays.

That was not my scene. I mean, I love a place card, but I thought most of that group was a little too shallow and nouveau riche for my tastes.  And a lot of those people seemed to eventually end up broke, in rehab or both.  Still, I went to some fabulous parties at their house and never complained.

I met Steve at a fundraiser in 1994 that My Friends business was sponsoring.  We connected and talked for hours but never followed through…

In 1997, I was offered a job and promotion in Phoenix.  My Friend gave a dinner at the City Club to celebrate my job.  On the way home, he insisted that we stop at a Gay bar for a nightcap and I met Steve again.

We went home together and finally had a First Date, that lasted 48 hours.  My friend called every few hours to get the story, but the story hadn’t ended.  He accused me of holding Steve hostage and threatened to call the SWAT Team.

I knew after that weekend, that Steve was “the one”.  I turned down that job in Phoenix  and it was years before I told Steve this.  But my friend knew.  And he was totally supportive.  He said, “follow your heart”.  Not in so many words, but….

The dynamics changed when I met Steve, made worse by the fact his partner and Steve did not hit it off.  It’s an old story for both straight and gay couples that your friends have to adjust when you meet “the one” and marry.

I won’t say it was an easy transition.  It wasn’t.  I’ll never regret my choice to make Steve first in my life.  But I never stopped missing my friend, either….as I said, it’s an old story.

My friend and his partner broke up and he moved to Charlotte…

We didn’t talk very often for a few years…

I thought we had time to work it out and time passed.  More years than I realized….

Then came “the Call” about the “Heart Attack”.

Time suddenly seemed like it might be too short.   I couldn’t accept that.  I tried to stay in the moment.  Steve was totally supportive.  I had to try to be there for My Friend.  You could not have kept me away…

The thing about true friends is that, good times or bad times, you pick up right where you left off.  Friendship is all that matters.  That is how this worked out…

My “female” Best Friend and I saw My Friend before his surgery.  We chatted and gossiped and it was as if time had stood still.  Except we knew the stakes were higher.  We joked about the last 30 years.  We told stories and reminisced….and we told each other we loved each other.  We knew we were bonded….

We were family….

We knew the future was uncertain but we were somehow certain we would face it together.  We might not be totally wrapped up in all the minutiae of our day to day lives anymore, but we still cared…

I called the hospital after his surgery.  At first, they wouldn’t tell me anything but I am a resourceful guy who knows how to use that inbred Southern manipulative Charm.  Before the night was over, I was listed as his “official contact” and “Spokesperson”.  I asked if that meant I was the one to decide if they had to “pull the plug” but they wouldn’t commit.  I would have loved to hold that over his head…

He is recovering very well and I am so thankful…

As I get older, old friends mean even more to me…

Even if I don’t alway want them to know….

I do detest cheap sentiment….

Perhaps Jerry Herman said it best:

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3 Responses to Chapter 61: Bosom Buddies

  1. Loved your post! Best friends are what makes life worth living, I tend to have very high quality best friendships…mostly female. ( With a few males thrown into the mix!)

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