Friends

I’m going to warn you that this isn’t my typical “light-hearted” blog, and I apologize if that’s what you came here looking for.  Trust me, they’ll be coming back soon.  It’s just that I’ve had some stuff swirling around in my head, stuff that I’ve hesitated to even write about (hence the long delay there in me posting anything for a while).  Once I get this crap out, I’ll be back to normal happy guy again.  Honest.

On to the darkness…

I’ve never had a lot of friends.  I consider a friend as someone whom I completely trust and absolutely respect.  There’s a lot of people I know that skirt very close to that line…I do respect them and I very likely could trust them with anything, if I gave them the chance.

I guess the problem is me.  I don’t give a lot of people that chance.  Wow, even as I write this, I’m thinking I’m coming off sounding like a dick.  And maybe I am.  Many wouldn’t argue that point when it came to me.

I guess it comes down to how many people I’ve lost in my life.  I never realized the staggering number of people that essentially chose to walk away from me.  My dad, my brother, my sister, my step-father, my step-brother, my step-sister, one person I would have called my best friend for life…the list goes on and on.

And, unfortunately, because of those people leaving, others were taken from me that I got to know and love, only to lose over the years.  My niece, Genevieve Elliott, daughter of Robert (Bobby) and Elaine (Lainey) Elliott.  She would be in her thirties now.  The last time I saw her, she was maybe three.  I mention her name in full because I wish I could get to know her.  I’m hoping that there’s some sort of six degrees of separation that may happen.  Or maybe she’ll google search her own name and read this.

My nephew and niece from my brother’s first marriage.  They’d be in their forties.  Haven’t seen them since they were maybe seven or eight years old.  Ryan, another of my brother’s kids who I still, to this day, kick myself for not trying to adopt.  Might have saved him from all the drugs and jail.

All these and so many others.  I’ve lost too many people over the years.  I’ve learned that I don’t let people in easily.  I guess I’m always waiting for them to leave again.

Lately I’ve been thinking about two in particular.  One, Jim Baldwin…Jimmy and I were inseparable from probably Grade 2 right through to just before I started Grade 11.  His dad was always a little tightly wrapped, but mostly a great guy and Jimmy’s mom was cool.  And for a kid coming from a broken home and no close siblings, they took me everywhere.  I was like their adopted kid.  All these years later, I’m still thankful for all the memories they gave me and all the places they took me and the time they spent with me.  And through it all, there were Jimmy and I, laughing, talking, dreaming our dreams of the future, reading comic books and discovering music.  Jimmy was the first KISS fan I knew.

I can still remember the final summer I spent with Jimmy.  We’d moved from Oshawa to Barry’s Bay and Jimmy wasn’t getting along well with his dad (being a typical 15 year old).  So he lived in Barry’s Bay with us from the end of June until Labour Day weekend.  I remember him begging my mother to let him stay and go to school there.  It broke her heart to have to tell him no.

And then his father came and took him home.  And then…I can only guess at what happened.  I think it can be put down to rebellion, but I rarely heard from Jim after that, only ran into him once more the following summer, was shocked at what I saw, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since.  Jim, if you’re out there somewhere, I’d love to hear from you.

And then there was the last guy I thought was my best friend.  Well, he really was for a lot of years.  We met when my mother remarried and I attended a new school.  This would have been Grade 6.  Al was always a bit of an oddball.  Ridiculously smart, ridiculously funny, with an always-inquisitive mind, I enjoyed hanging out with him.  You could see where he got most of his qualities from, as he took very much after his father and his mother was, quite simply, my surrogate mother.  She was the one I turned to when I was in college and my mother was living a few hours’ drive away.  I could get meals there (and pretty much did, every Sunday).  When I got a part time job that required me to wear a tie, it was Margaret that I rushed over to a few minutes before my first shift so she could knot it for me.  Then I went back later to get her to show me how to do it properly.  I laughed many times in that house, cried a few, and had some of the most fascinating conversations I’ve ever had about anything and everything.

And again, through it all, there were Al and I, laughing, talking, dreaming our dreams of the future, writing, reading comic books and regular books and discovering music.  I remember Al being a passionate Who fan (I really dislike the Who) but when he discovered Peter Gabriel, man, that was it.  I must have heard “Shock the Monkey” about a billion times.  He even played the crap out of the German version, “Shock den Offen”.

I was his best man when he got married even though his bride was an acquired taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked her a lot, especially talking to her one-on-one.  But she could be quite abrasive in a crowd at times.  But once you got to know her, things were okay.

And I still remember the day, hell, damn near the minute our friendship died.  It was Christmas day, I’d proposed to my girlfriend (and, of course, now my wife).  I remember I couldn’t wait to go over and tell Al and ask him to be my best man.

I waited until we were alone.  Just the two of us.  And, as we sat in his parent’s living room, I said, “I have some big news.  I’ve asked Karen to marry me.”

Al had a book he’d received as a Christmas present in his hand.  He’d been looking at it when I started.  When I told him, he glanced at me briefly and said, “Oh yeah?  Hm.  Hey, have you read this book?”

I’ll never forget it as long as I live.  I didn’t ask him to be my best man.  He didn’t bother to even show up at my wedding.  My best friend of sixteen years.

Again, we lost touch shortly after.  We briefly corresponded just before my daughter was born and I know he was going through a tough time, but he just seemed so…cold.

I guess, as I re-read what I’ve written here, it wasn’t always them abandoning me.  I think Jimmy abandoned his life in search of something better.  But in Al’s case, yeah, he abandoned me.  Like a lot of those other people I mentioned above.

The good news is, I have a couple of amazing friends now.  One I’ve known since Grade 11 in Barry’s Bay. The other I met just before both our sons were born.  Friends that I not only respect wholeheartedly, trust completely, but also laugh and joke with.  We don’t dream as much about the future as much as we talk about the past.  Our dreams of the future now centre around our kids.

But I know these guys will be my friends until the day we die.  I’ve learned that’s a rare thing.  I hope I’m half as good a friend to those two guys as they’ve been to me over the years.

Addendum: Okay, I’ve slept on this (okay, well, not really, that would be uncomfortable, these computers are hard!) and when I read this over, I also realize, for whatever reason, I was wallowing a little and feeling sorry for myself a little.  And I also forgot to mention all the amazing people who ARE in my life, from my family (both immediate and extended), and friends and co-workers.

I guess I should explain that I was talking about best friends in this post, but I do have quite a decent circle of those who I can (and frequently have) leaned on.  And they’ve been nothing but trustworthy, respectful and, most of all, supportive.

I’m a lucky guy.  Hell, look at the comments below.  They’ll show it.  It’s something I try not to take for granted, though, there are times when I forget.  Luckily, I have those around me to remind me I can be a forgetful putz at times.  Thanks to all of you, and I hope you all know who you are and how special you all are to me.  If I haven’t told you lately, let me know and give me a smack upside the head.

Okay, ’nuff said.

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10 thoughts on “Friends

  1. Ah, Tobin….I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or come running over there to give you a hug. Life can be the shits sometimes, but you are an amazing man dispite all the hardships and I am truly proud that you are my cousin. I don’t think I’ve ever told you this….I love you. Karen and your kids are very lucky to have you and truth be told…I am a little envious of your life; full of laughter, family, friends and prosperity. Keep on doing what you’re doing. (I hate The Who too).

    • Yup, life can be the shits sometimes. But while you’re in the gutter, you can still look up and see the stars. There’s no need to be envious of my life, trust me, everyone only shows everyone else what they want them to see, but in the end, when I look at all the ups and downs, there’s been a lot more ups. I’ve got a phenomenal family, great friends, an excellent job and generally, I’m happier and healthier than I have any right to be.

      I’m a lucky guy, and I know it.

      And thanks, cuz. Love you too.

  2. I appreciate this kind of rare post when an individual shares on an extremely personal level. I find that when I have done this on Mondays on my blog it has given others ‘permission’ to be open also and created a forum people feel safe in. Like you said it’s not something one needs to do all the time, but periodically – definately, and I commend you.

    • Yeah well, and then there’s times when you go back and read it and get…what? Blogger’s remorse? Or at least a burning need to put an addition on it for all those friends you likely offended without meaning to. But thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth.

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