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I got some shocking news the other day: a childhood friend had died. I found out through a direct message on Facebook. His wife messaged me and sought out my physical address. She is putting together a memory book and soliciting entries from his friends.
I say the news was shocking, and it was. And yet it shouldn’t have been, I guess. I forget I am a septuagenarian now, locked in my head as a younger, more fit man. My friend was a year older, and he suffered from Multiple Sclerosis — a diagnosis he got as a young fairly newly married man. Although I am not intimately familiar with the disease, it clearly is not a diagnosis that is indicative of an extended life. So I am imagining that by sheer length, my friend had a pretty good run. But how is longevity to be regarded when suffering a debilitating disease — either for the sufferer or their caregiver?
I must now make a shameful confession: I can be careless with friends. I suppose for some people this form of carelessness calls into question the concept of friendship itself. I know of people who never let anyone go, who make persistent contact. That is not me. When I am in proximity I enjoy my friends immensely and engage with them frequently. But when life has taken me away from them or they from me, they enter the memory world. I do not like them less nor cease to cherish what they meant to me, but their reality and substance have changed. I am sure that is a defect in me, but not one I seem able to transcend.
And so it is, that hearing of my friend’s death I am forced to reach back and recover memories of him. It is a different kind of task. It is not so much hard to recall as it is a process to recall. Memories are packed neatly in boxes and on shelves in my mind like a closet with the light out. So I have to open the door, turn on the light and do a bit of rummaging.Published in