A side effect of growing old is losing friends. The youngsters out there will think that I’m stating the bleeding obvious in that as your hair turns grey your network of friendships is thinned by death.
That’s not what I mean… I’m referring to that slow drift away from people you thought would always be close to you as your interests diversify and the complexities of your life escalate beyond simply staying in touch. It’s tempting to think that Facebook and its networking cousins will halt the drop off of childhood friends into the memory bank, but truthfully I suspect that they will suspend all relationships conducted through cyberspace on a very shallow and quickly forgettable plain. Time will tell…
My experience is that as I cheerfully head through my thirties and meet some of the most wonderful and interesting people, in this the most intimate of places, I add names to a colorful list of acquaintances. And then I met Jeremiah Hambana. I’ve written before about Jerry’s specialness as a person and I frequently introduce him to guests as the nicest person on the planet. Spending as much time as I do with Jerry is a privilege and I’ve subconsciously added him to my shrinking list of close friends.
We had a difficult drive a few days ago. It felt like we kept turning left when we should have turned right and the leopard we were tracking eventually eluded us. I got grumpy – it happens sometimes – and on the way back to the lodge I might have said something to the effect of: “well at least we are still friends.” Jerry with his deadpan and inscrutably honest expression turned to tell me that he did not consider me as a friend. It was a long drive home and in the awkwardness of camp I took him to task, explaining that I had long considered him a friend and what that meant. Jerry’s response was simply that we couldn’t be friends while I was grumpy… “for crying out loud Jerry, you can’t be that wishy washy about friendship surely?”
Of course he can! Jerry places value in friendships being consistent and always behaving within those ideals. A western view might be more that a friendship holds through thick and thin and can tolerate some sort of poor performance from either side. Jerry’s position is unwaveringly simple: in his view so long as I’m grumpy, we aren’t and can’t be friends.
Well that has got me behaving myself in his company, because his friendship is something I cherish, and like most things in life that are of value, friendships require a decent amount of effort to acquire and retain. Beyond that I’ll use this life lesson from Jerry to enhance those special friendships I have, and apply them to new ones along the way.