A while ago I posted a comment about a friend of mine who had called me to say that due to the lack of communication between us (from my side) he was downgrading our friendship to "acquaintances" status! I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but accepted it for what it was worth.
We had been good (best?) friends for a long, long time. I met him when I was about 16 years old, he had met my sister, and decided that to get closer to her - date her, he should make friends with her brother. No problem. We became good mates, and spent a lot of time together, having fun. Met our spouses, shared experiences with having our respective kids, etc. In fact, he got me the job at my current place of employment.
Stuff happened, he got divorced, remarried, had 2 kids.... and after much happenings, left the West Rand, and went to settle, and start over, in Jeffrey's Bay.
Now, I have never been a telephone person. Not sure if it's cause I spend so much time on the phone to clients, but that's how it is. We kept in touch, some phone calls (mainly him calling me) the occasional SMS, some interaction on Facebook.. the usual "social" chatter. But it would seem that this did not suffice - so? He's also become very, very religious, to the point where he was getting pushy. OK, so that's how some people are, I had no problem with it. I then became his "cause". Kind of like he felt it was his mission to "save" me. I appreciated the effort, his calls, input, advice, guidance - in fact at one point I referred to MikeB as my personal spiritual mentor!
A few weeks ago we had another "fallout". Over the past few years, he has also been my bouncing board with regards me complaining about my current status at work. he would have ideas for me to leave and stuff I could do after, and I always took them into consideration - BUT, the decision to leave would be mine, and mine alone, and on my terms. This is the part he "struggled" with. Truth be told, he does not really understand my situation, as he has been "absent" for too long. Anyway, he called a few weeks ago, and was rather upset - again. Ranting on about how I say things, but don't do them (talking about leaving my current employer - so, what part of it's my decision does he not understand?), and then brought up a whole lot of stuff that happened a long time ago, which at the time I didn't see as an issue, but he must have cause he still
remembers them, and felt he needed to throw them into my face!
And so our friendship, as such, is basically terminated - I prefer the word Fucked - but that's just me. I mean, I think he has more issues to work through than I have. He just happened to also have been the MC at my wedding.
Where am I going with this?
OK, so 23 years ago, when I got married, AlanP was my best man. We had been best mates for some time, and he was the obvious choice. Along with my brother. We stayed friends for some time thereafter. Eventually his work moved him to Empangeni, where he started up a new branch for them, and did very well. In the early 2000's probably around 2002 / 3 time frame, we stopped communicating. It wasn't a specific effort, nothing happened, nothing was said. I didn't visit my brother in Richards Bay very often anymore, so didn't get round to visiting him either. And phone calls stopped, etc. No bad blood. Just happened.
2 Weeks ago the Princess (who is friends with him on Facebook - I have no idea why I didn't have him as a friend) told me that it seemed he had got very sick, and only now had posted something about it. I had a look, and saw he was posting about having come through a bad session of Chemo, and was due to go to hospital for an operation. I went onto his face book, and sent him a personal message of support. I then got his email, and sent him a message via email.
He came back with some special words, and I decided to call him. Driving home after work, I dialed his number, which I still had after all this time, and we spoke for over 40 minutes. We kind of touched on why we had stopped communication, but no blame was apportioned - suffice to say that these things happen. But then me told me something which was a real eye opener. I was still his best friend. In all his life he had only had 3! Me, Mr. Van, (a mutual friend we had that passed in 2000), and a guy from his church who had proven his friendship beyond a doubt recently during AlanP's chemo treatment, and the challenges that are associated with having cancer. Me! After so long, I was still his best friend.
That brought home to me the real meaning of friendship. A connection that surpasses every challenge that might come up. Something that just endures, because it really is a special relationship. Thank you AlanP!
So, he was due to go into hospital on Tues 24 Jul, and be operated on on Wed 25th. I had a chat with the Princess, went to work Monday 23rd, had a chat with the boss, and took 3 days leave (Wed - Fri). Booked a flight - one way - to Durban, booked a car hire, and Tuesday afternoon flew down to see my friend!
I found out where he was in the hospital. Went to the nursing station and said "I know it's not visiting hours, but you have a Mr. AlanP here, and I have just flown in from JHB." One of the nurses asked "Are you his brother?" - "Do I look like his brother" I asked. "Yes" she said (seems like us whiteys all look alike to the Indians!) - and on that basis they allowed me to go and see him! "5 Minutes" she said. "OK". I stayed for about 40! When I walked into his room, his first reaction was "What the fuck are you doing here?" Big eyes, great smile, surprised, and so, so happy to see me. In the 40 minutes I was there we managed to catch up on a load of lost time - swapping information, etc. Suffice to say, we have loads more to discuss and catch up on - the reason for becoming friends in the first place was still there!
I was there for him, and he knew and appreciated it. No expectations, no finger pointing - no accusations, no shit! He told me the events that led up to him being in hospital, I caught up on where his kids were and what they were doing, and gave him a summary of our situation, family wise. Done!
The point I want to make is that "best friends" means different things to different people I suppose. The expectations are tailored by the people involved, and what they feel they want out of the relationship.
Of the above two scenarios, I must conclude that AlanP is a real best friend, and that MikeB, although a very good friend at the time, can't be classified as a best friend, because of the expectations he puts on a relationship.
My decision to go and visit, and be with AlanP at this time was based on two things:- a) I am a cancer survivor, and felt I could add value to him by reinforcing his mental state around his situation by giving him a pep talk, and b) His statement to me that I am still his best friend - if he didn't deserve my visit, no one would!