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Enjoy the Meal

Throughout our lives we meet many people, liking some, disliking others for whatever reasons we decide. But only a choice few of them become the close friends who we cherish and love. I believe that friendship is a powerful, beautiful and painful thing. It heals wounds, gives comfort in troubled times, and can hurt us to our very core; it is fleeting, yet eternal. Friendship is my law of life and it is a something we all need at some point.
***
“Do they have any kids?" I asked my dad as he walked towards the door.
"Yes, he has a daughter around your age and a son only a few years older," he replied.
"Okay, I'll come." Though some other banter followed, the excited chatter of a nine-year-old is not something easily remembered or recorded, so let it suffice to know that I was going to a wedding where my father was the pastor and minister. The sounds of people laughing, balls rolling down polished lanes, and the occasional crack of pins falling greeted me as I entered the bowling alley, where the wedding was being held. I don't remember the details of what happened there, just walking around, talking about whatever it is two kids talk about at weddings. Maybe how he, the son of the groom, felt about gaining some stepsiblings, or 'do you like this activity or that activity' and so on. Those don't matter so much any more. We met; that's what started it all.


His parents’ wedding came and went, and I learned that He lived a mere two miles from where I lived, an easy walking distance. In the countryside of Wyoming, when the summers pass in heat waves and thunderstorms, it's nice to have some one around to hang out with. We met up just about everyday during the summer at an old barn, roughly central to our homes, and then we’d spend hours hiking around the back hills talking about girls, life, and who knows what else. Sometimes we'd find old branches of trees and play knights or kung fu, or go to each other’s house to play a video game or chess.
We did so many things over and over again that it's hard to tell everything with out being boring. But we were happy, and we gave each other a sort of comfort and balance in the world. I was stagnant, I had a stable home and was content to take things slow and easy and be dull; he was vivid and lively, from a broken home and liked to move. He taught me to move, and I taught him stability.
We'd go camping as late in the year as September and, on occasion, we'd ride our bikes the three or so miles to town to go to the gas station or library or join friends in whatever they were doing at the time: playing poker, sitting around a fire talking about nothing and eating marshmallows, “chilling.” I wasn't too keen on being social. But He enjoyed our friends’ company so I tolerated them for his sake.
One of the last nights we went camping, we stayed up until three or so in the morning talking and walking. Waiting for the greenish hues on the northern horizon to mature. Eventually they did and we sat on a hillside to watch the greens and purples of the Northern Lights dance and sing above us. All the while we made comments on how the moment would be even better if one or the other of us was a girl. It was after this that everything began to change.
Just after first semester of my sophomore year of high school He dropped out and went to a military school in Guernsey, Wyoming. We wrote each other a lot during that time, and we grew even closer. It seems like hearts are more easily shared with pen and paper than eye to eye with speech. He'd ask me if I was all right for this reason or that reason and I'd tell him 'yes, I'm fine' regardless. He'd tell me about his rigorous military schedule, and I'd tell him about my life and the people in school, about this girl or that girl, about my dad and mom, about His siblings and just about anything we cared to discuss.
In retrospect, he was gone when I needed most to talk to him in person, for a lot of things began happening: My dad fell 12 feet and broke his skull, and my brother was sent to jail on false charges, leaving his four-year-old in the care of my parents. None of us could work, and everything was diminishing our meager finances. Though He wrote me, and we could discuss the events, a written word is inadequate in stressful times.
The following summer we both worked, so we didn’t hang out much. Though we talked on the phone fairly often and went camping once or twice, compared to former years, it was hardly ever. August came, and I started my junior year of high school, and He went to The Frontier School of the Bible in La Grange, Wyoming, where I heard even less from him.
The year passed quickly, I met a girl or two, and I would call Him every now and then to relate my travels to Washington D.C. for Close-Up or to State FFA or some other event where I had met somebody from someplace, and He told me about his College, how much it opened his eyes and impacted him deeply for God and Christianity. I was happy for him. He met a girl at college; I wasn't surprised and reaching him became an even greater chore than before. He felt that she was perfect for him, and while their relationship grew, it seemed our friendship shrunk. But perhaps familiarity with another person means that we neglect each other, so that we can remember again and again why we were friends. Summer passed in a daze. His girlfriend came for the Fourth of July, and she met families and friends of His from all over, including me. Another month passed.
He left for College early, and I was left to wait for school to start, my last year. Reality hit me then, and again it seemed he was gone when I needed him most. My home was being sold; the past two years of suffering had weakened my family's finances, and the realtors wanted us moved out in only a month. We didn’t really have a place to move to. But we left, leaving my home empty. The months kept moving, and I found a room with a friend. I passed my time in solitude, reading, writing, or studying, anything to keep my mind at bay. On occasion I would try to call Him, but He was rarely in his dorm-room because He was always away with His girlfriend.
Time passed swiftly and Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, allowing me to see Him and his girlfriend a couple times. Valentine’s Day appeared out of nowhere and the coldness of the day matched how I felt. It was that Valentine’s Day that He proposed to his girlfriend, and she accepted. I marveled; I wasn't shocked. That was the type of person he was, but to think of Him planning a wedding? And He wanted me to be the best man. That was overwhelming.
A blur of sports, work and study later, I was standing on a platform receiving my high school diploma. I had scholarships in bank and a college life ahead of me. He and His lady attended my graduation, and I accepted His congratulations and the gifts and congratulations of others. All with thanks, smiles and, in some cases, tears. Again my summer was spent working, and He, I’m assuming, spent His with His lady planning their wedding. August appeared much too soon, and I found myself standing next to Him, watching His bride walk up the aisle.
He took his vows, a stupid grin plastered on His face as He gazed in her eyes, and she in His. Gifts were given and received with smiles, laughter and crying. We celebrated their wedding then He and His bride departed for their honeymoon. It was only as I watched Him leave that I realized how much His friendship meant to me. (I turned and went my way.) In life a person needs a friend they can talk to about the things neither one of them understands. (I was alone.) Our triumphs, our failures; joy and sorrow; those are the bittersweet things that we can share with each other as friends. (I was empty.) Though he left, as friends do from time to time, I knew that what he taught would never leave me: Friendship is something like a meal that is shared between people; it fills us, gives us strength and warmth, but it will eventually end. Leaving us to make another meal and share it with each other again or with someone new.





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