Friends really are wonderful and one of the top things we attain in this life and world. “There is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” The friends who claimed my childhood, those rare friends and I mostly grew up in a rural country setting in the hills of Northern Missouri. There was a group of us, a posse, a tribe. And would grow up together until we got around 17. I moved away for school, and another friend got married. One friend went to prison. The others, I can’t say what they did. They stayed there. Staying there in that kind of setting with those kinds of experiences isn’t the ideal Stephen King ending. And the ones that stayed there, we don’t stay in touch like the ones who charged and blazed new ground. But the ones I did stay in touch with, they are forever special.
It’s a different kind of special than the friends you meet in the Army, College or coffee shops. They are your brothers. How can they not be? You would go to their houses and our neighborhoods everyday after school. Don’t even get me started on summers. You play in the dirt together, cry together, get in trouble together, bleed together. You are placed in the same childhood together and grow like plants and flowers and trees together. That bond is special, albeit special cases like child abuse and the like, that bond is special. That bond is unique, distinctive and exclusive. It never dies. The ones that die? They weren’t the special ones. They could not have been. “When you have 3 or 4 good friends, you have a tribe.”
We go onto meet other friends in different settings if we venture forth into our adulthood. They are special too. They are not quite as unique as the childhood friends. Unless my situation was unique, and some people don’t have those kind of friends. With military friends your bond becomes temporary, the temporary bond of staying alive together. College friends are more special than Army friends. They are lasting friends, but they have financial and philosophical bonds. All of them do. The thing about childhood friends is that by growing up with them, I mean really growing up with them, you know them forever. It doesn’t matter if they fall into drugs or a lot of money. You know them like you know your closest family members. All of my Army friends are alive. All of my college friends are educated and successful. All of my childhood friends are apart of me.
Your childhood friends are like the wind, sky, green trees, rain, and summer mornings. My closest friend, one of my brothers who don’t share the same blood; I don’t have any blood brothers; he is the lead RN in an operating room. I used to have dreams about us running through the coldest winter. I had the dream for about 2 months. I hadn’t talked to him in longer than that. But we were running, knowing one another like those kind of friends know one another, through the coldest winter. The setting was suburban and the streets were filled with snow and ice. Every once in a while, he would fall down, and act like he was struggling in severe pain. I would grab the collar of his shirt, and shake him, screaming at him, trying to snap him out of it, trying to help him feel what he was feeling, in that strange and holy coldness. I never knew what it meant. It was one of those dreams that is so clear and strange and mysterious, that it sticks with you. It sticks with you because something more powerful than yourself embeds it into your mind and experience. Months after I stopped having the dream, I went to a casino with some family; they liked to eat at the casino’s diner’s buffet. Another childhood friend whom I hadn’t seen in so long, in so long, was walking up from the parking lot as I was standing taking in the summer sun. I was surprised to see him. He was working there to find out. He told me that Thad just went through a strange divorce from his high school sweetheart. I just listened and spoke with my other buddy. The rest of the day, I sat stunned, sat riding home, sat when I got home, wondering of the wonder. I focused on God, focused on what it meant. Maybe he was going through a cold time, and I was supposed to be there for him, but I was too busy getting my big and important degree, sticking it to all the people who picked on me when I was a kid, picked on me because I was wild, smart, and sensitive, and wasn’t afraid of them. In The Lord of the Flies high school that I went to, the older classmen can smell that a younger, smaller soul doesn’t hold them in god-like status. And they try to make you pay for it. When I could of reached out to my pal, I was entirely selfish. I thought of my brother and the dream like I think of an interesting concept, one that is fun to obsess over. I only thought of it as abstract. I didn’t even go visit him, and my college was in the same town he lives in. We were together every day, all day growing up. We invented play scenarios where we were in epic battles that involved guns and neighborhood trees and their branches, and movie lines. When I failed to reach out to him, I was also wrapped up in girls. I wonder if holds that against me sometimes. I wonder now. I just messaged him on facebook. I had another friend.
He had a bad childhood. Really bad. His biological father, when he was around 11, burned their house down when they were all asleep. Praise the Lord that he didn’t succeed in finishing what he evidently was trying to accomplish, his father that is. That incident happened when I was a kid, so I seen it like all kids see things, dream-like. When he was 16-17, he and another friend of mine who also had a bad but not as bad childhood, stole a guys truck from our small town, robbed a bank in a nearby smaller town with bb guns, and were finally caught in Texas I think. They sent him away to a institution for troubled youth. Like a boarding school for young felons. Later on, after I joined the Army, he would get mixed up in drugs and crime and spent time in prison. When I got out of the Army, and when he got out of Prison, I was home for a while. I was one of the first people he visited. After that we would hang out everyday at my house, all day and night, and I was still lost, and he would go away to jail again. I moved away to college, and he got into trouble. I was the only one who wrote him in prison. The only one. I don’t hold it against my other friends for not writing him. I think that we just happened to grow especially close for that period before college. He finally got out, found a girl, married, and is now living in North Carolina. We have recently started to communicate again, and it is nice. He is not a believer, but I wait for that perfect moment when I can share Him with him. He is the same. So is the RN. But they will always be the same. I think they will be the same. They are my pals. I have other friends… but not like them.
In this life, pals are important. They are. I have mine.