Posts Tagged ‘friendships’


May 31, 2018

Not everyone fits the mold.

Gary M., my longest-standing friend, is a case in point. Gary is 66 (I’m 65, almost 66). I’m taking him to 2 doctor’s appointments tomorrow, so he’s on my mind.

We met in my 3rd year of college, in January of 1971 on a bus from Atlanta to Charlotte. I was headed back from Atlanta, Gary got on in Greenville SC, and we began to talk. Even though we’d been at college together (the college was another 100 miles past Charlotte), we’d never met there. Small world, but an even smaller bus. I offered Gary a ride from my house near Charlotte (I had a car, he didn’t) and he took me up on it.

A couple weeks later, he introduced me to my first wife Iris (whom I married 2 years after the intro, was married 25 years, and she died at the end of 1998—that’s in some other blogposts I’ve written). We lived in Columbia from 1978 to 1984, and Gary lived with us for a year while going to law school at USC-Columbia SC. He graduated and got his law degree (Gary had a great mind and loved thinking and talking theology, law, ethics—anything in those realms). He ended up not being able to make it as an attorney in spite of his brilliant mind, primarily because he loved the poor and downtrodden. He has ended up working at a number of jobs for non-profits and disabilities board-type institutions, at subsistence wages. He never married (though he had several women who wanted to) and cared for his mom in her feebler later years (she just died about 3 years ago). Ironically, one of the women who really wanted to marry him, had the same last name as his mom, whose name was Evelyn W,, and her name was Ellen W. Go figure.

Gary has a great heart also. He has wanted to foster and often ends up helping down-and-outs who end up being a drain on his patience and resources, and almost never meet Gary’s expectations in the relationship. Thus is life, at least Gary’s life. In the last few years, he’s had not only his mom but a number of other key people in his social network pass away. So he’s struggling. And busy as I am, I’m trying to fit more time and diligence into the relationship, just because.

I treasure Gary and his insights (even when I disagree). He is one of those people it’s hard not to like, even love. But it does take a lot of patience. Still overall, it’s worth it. You only get a few friends like that in a lifetime. He’s part of my legacy, and I want to honor him with that thought here.

Relationship, Context, and “I Wanna Go to WalMart”

April 12, 2012

I meet regularly early on Tuesday mornings for a couple hours with a few guys for spiritual renewal and refreshing. We’ve been doing it for about 5 years now—sometimes we pray, sometimes we study, sometimes we just talk, sometimes it’s a combination of these and who knows what. This past Tuesday turned out to be one of the most hilarious times we’ve had in a while.

It started out as a discussion of some spiritual principle, I think, but it turned into an insight for me about life in general. The conversation began with Barry’s question, “What does … mean?” (I forget what the specific was because what came next was so funny.)

Chris (who turns 52 tomorrow and often has some of the most out-of-the-box perspectives on things) said, “It’s all about relationship. What does it mean to you if my wife says, ‘I wanna go to WalMart’?” Charles said something. Art said something. I said: “She might actually want to go to WalMart, or she might just want to get out of the house.” Then Chris hit us with it: “What if it’s a code for, ‘I want to have sex.’? I have relationship with her, so I would know that, but you wouldn’t!” Of course, much laughter ensued, but it was a powerful insight.

If we don’t know someone or really have relationship with them, we have to pretty much mean what we say. Of course, our context—where we’re coming from, the situation we’re in, the particulars of the matter—influence our understanding of what is said, and we all have stories of how easy it is to mis-interpret what someone says. But we can only develop codes and have secret or private understanding of meaning via relationship. We have to have a mutual understanding, an agreement, sometimes unspoken, that when I say X you understand Y, something totally different that the literal, obvious, face-value meaning. And we do this sort of thing all the times in our families and friendships. It’s what slang is all about: When we say something’s “cool” or “bad,” we don’t mean that literally. But we have to agree on the meaning, and that happens through relationship. Gangs and cults and terrorist organizations know this well, but so do businesses and churches and civic groups. All develop their “insider” languages, their private code-signals (phrases, signs, etc.) that say, “I’m in… are you with me?”

The conversation got even quirkier a bit later when Barry, who had had to leave early to go do a job that was some distance away, called Charles by accident. Mumbling on the other end of the phone, he said, “I meant to call my wife. Why am I calling you???” Of course, we had to suggest that maybe he really wanted to go to WalMart after all…

Yes, I had to ask Chris privately—he’s one of my best friends—whether that was an actual code phrase they used. Never got a clear answer on that. Maybe my relationship with him isn’t deep enough. That’s OK. I didn’t really want to go to WalMart with Chris anyway.

Though I did go to WalMart with Charles later that day. But only to buy a hunting license—and some cough suppressant for my wife, who’s been too sick to go…