Sometimes good friends just drift apart.
Nobody is responsible. Circumstances change and before you know it, you haven’t spoken to your best buddy from high school for six years.
I know this from experience.
Jim and I played on our high school tennis team together, worked on woodworking class projects together, and we went cruising down Broadway Street together — usually in his black 1970-something Mustang that looked cool, but always seemed to be in need of repair.
We didn’t miss a beat after high school. We played tennis, went to parties, and worked out together. We even dated the same girl (not at the same time, of course). Most male friendships probably don’t survive the dating-the-same-girl-thing, but ours did.
In our twenties, Jim got married (no, not to her), and I was his best man. He and his wife began having children and he found a job that required him to work a swing shift. In the meantime, I became a Christian and had quit going to nightclubs, replacing them with Bible studies and church events.
We still hung out once in a while, but less frequently. Our calls became less frequent, too. Neither of us was upset with the other one. Life happens. Interests changes. We were just pulled in different directions and before we knew it, a year had gone by without us speaking. And then two years.
When my dad died in 2000, Jim and I reconnected just like old times, before losing touch again.
From then on, we had a milestone friendship — one that is secure enough in its own history to show up during milestone moments without any real need to connect on a regular basis.
When Jim's dad died seven years later, he invited me to be part of the family gathering at the funeral home. I showed up, even though I was hobbling on crutches after rupturing my Achilles tendon.
Then we drifted back into our routines, touching base once in a while on the phone. I don’t know how much time passed before he called to invite me to a going away party. His Navy Reserve unit had been called up to Iraq.
When I arrived at the party, I hardly recognized his girls. They had grown so much.
Jim and I ended up posing side by side for a picture at that party (yes, the one above). Neither of us said it, but we both knew it could turn out to be one of those pictures a friend posts online one day as a tribute to his fallen buddy.
We traded letters while he was in Iraq, and he was able to call me once. And thankfully, he came back in one piece. When he got home, we celebrated, and then lost touch.
A year or so later, his mom died and I attended her funeral. That was in 2009, if my memory is correct. I don’t think we’ve spoken since.
A few months ago, I wondered what Jim was up to, so I sent him a text. The funny thing is, I don’t think we’ve ever texted one other. In fact, last I knew, Jim had a flip phone and was anti-text messaging. But things change, so I took a chance.
“Hey Jim. What are you up to?” I wrote.
“Who is this?”
We’d gone so long without communicating that he didn't even have my phone number in his contact list anymore. I guess I could have jumped to conclusions, thinking he deleted my number because he didn’t want to stay in touch, but honestly, the thought didn’t cross my mind.
I identified myself, and he asked if he could call me. We fast forwarded through the last six years of our lives, playing catch up over the next forty-five minutes. And then we broke our pattern. We made plans to have dinner the following week for the mere sake of it.
We traded stories about our physical ailments, and stories about our families. We played a little darts, and we laughed. Underneath it all, a sense of contentment washed over me because we have a friendship for the ages, and those are hard to find.