Seeing an old friend is good for the soul. I’ve known Robbie since before my memory could form memories. I imagine at one point in time we both waddled around like tiny drunken sailors in diapers together, navigating the world at so young an age — vertically challenged, snot bubbles bubbling up at our nostrils, thin hair in disarray. I don’t remember it but I’m sure my parents and his do.
Having many of the same mutual friends, close ones at that, we’ve been through a lot together: our early lives more a shared experience than a solely individual one — the bulk of which was of the positive sort or ones where we left unscathed aside from a bloody nose by a stranger’s fist or boot. The bloody nose thing happened to Robbie on multiple occasions but I was always there it seemed — not for the trip in the paddy wagon in Charlottesville, but Rock ‘N Sams, the apartments, Candler’s Mountain, and so on.
“Here we go again,” I’d laugh and think.
Having grown up where I did and at the time I grew up, I was blessed with a lot of different friends. When I was young, it came natural to me to weave in between groups. I could be friends with just about anybody. I’ve never been able to replicate this in my adult life. I’m not sure if anyone really can — guys especially. Maybe it’s easier if your childhood friendships were less impactful. But mine weren’t. My childhood and the friendships I had back then seem like an American anomaly now that I look back on it.
When Jeremiah passed, Robbie was the first voice I heard. When Gary left us, I was the first voice Robbie heard. We were 8,000 miles and oceans apart as Robbie was living in Hong Kong at the time. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, I dreaded making the phone call. I didn’t want it to be true. I remember getting off the phone with Robbie and saying to Allison as I cried, “I feel horrible for having done that.”
There’s a saying which I’ve always loved that goes:
Friends are the family you choose.
I got the best of both worlds in this. While Gary and me are first cousins, Robbie is our second cousin. His grandmother was our grandpa’s sister. I was explaining this to my kids on the ride home, blowing their minds all the way down Seminole Trail.
Even in the shakiest of circumstances, our friendships were solid as a rock. I always knew I could count on Jeremiah, Robbie, and Gary to have my back and vice versa. Of this group, only the two of us are left.
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It’s not to say I don’t have other friends. I do. Josh and Dwayne, Rick, Andy et al — they are some of the best friends I could ask for in life.
But someone like Robbie, who I’ve known by far the longest is a special breed for me. There’s a certain energy I feel around Robbie even if it’s been a year or more. I feel like I’m alive again. That part of me that feels like a loner now as an adult, disappears. It doesn’t even want to be there anymore. I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with my close friends. I want those memories living inside of me jogged.
I want a bear hug, not a handshake, which coincidentally Robbie naturally gives me when I see him even though I stick out my hand. He sees my hand and is like, “F— that. Here’s a hug.”
I need that. Robbie can tell I need that and I can tell the same in him. It’s that energy that seeing an old friend gives to the soul. And it’s a good feeling — scratch that, a great feeling. I hope everyone feels that feeling with someone in their life. Life is short and death does a damn fine job picking us off one-by-one while we’re asleep at the wheel.
Merry Christmas to everyone out there reading this. I hope your holiday is a happy and healthy one surrounded by your loved ones — your family and the family you choose in your friendships. See you in a few days because you know I’ll be writing something again soon 🙂
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