For fifty years I never referred to my wife as my best friend. I thought it was an odd phrasing to apply to a spouse. "Friends" were Vic and Chuck and Bill. My wife was, well—my wife. A connection far beyond friendship.
Now, in the aftermath of her death, I realize that our marriage endured for a half-century precisely because she was my best friend.
In meditating about her passing, I’ve come to see that friendship is like holding a bird in your hand. Squeeze too tightly and you will smother it. Pay it too little heed and it will fly away.
Writer Simone de Beauvoir asks:
Why one man rather than another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with a fellow for life just because he was the one that you met when you were nineteen.
Jo Anne was nineteen when we met, both of us students at Fordham. And, for better or worse, she found herself involved with me for life.
There also is something else that has me thinking about friendship—the four retired guys who meet for lunch every day at the Silver Star Diner down Second Avenue from Sloan-Kettering.
Jo Anne and I would grab a meal there whenever she had the medical treatments that hopefully would contain her breast cancer. Every time we went to the Silver Star, they were there. Each of the old geezers was escorted by a paid caretaker, and the ladies would sit at a nearby table with a watchful eye on their decrepit charges, who indulged themselves with blini and sour cream.
I envy those guys. Because I would be hard pressed today to think of three men I could meet for lunch every day. Or even once a month.
So now, with my best friend gone, where do I find friendship?
Writing in New York magazine, Ann Friedman nicely summed up the problem for men pursuing friendship:
Women who invite other women on friend-dates might feel awkward or pushy. Men, on the other hand, feel weird pursuing other men for friendship. Openly courting someone for friendship carries with it a sense of desperation.
Perhaps this is why men’s friendships are often based on shared activities—playing golf, going to football games, working together on projects.
So I’m odd man out again. I think golf is stupid . . . football is dominated by domestic abusers . . . and I don’t do “projects.”
Dr. Ronald E. Riggio recently reported on a study that found women court their friends—with regular phone calls, for instance, and frequent get-togethers. Men, on the other hand, don’t need to stay in touch. The research discovered that some men hadn’t contacted “close” friends for many years. In a few cases, the close friend had passed away unbeknownst to the friend!
Which reminds me of the story of the four guys who got together to play 18 holes of golf one afternoon. When they returned home, the wife of one of them asked, “How was the golf?”
“Great,” her husband said. “Except on the sixth hole, Charlie had a heart attack and died.”
“How terrible!” the wife exclaimed.
“It sure was,” her husband replied, picking at a bothersome hangnail. “All afternoon it was hit the ball, drag Charlie … hit the ball, drag Charlie.”
(The image is Comfort in Friendship, a commissioned painting by Karen Morrison, at http://www.nsmorrart.com)
Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/
Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.
- Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R3SF200
- iBooks (iPad): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-light-from-within/id950880424?mt=11
- Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-light-from-within-peter-w-yaremko/1120862902?ean=9780990905004
And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at: http://www.peterwyaremko.com/mercy