No one’s ever asked me why my best friend is my best friend. Maybe you’ve been asked that.
I heard someone talking about this (on a podcast – “Cal Fussman, Big Questions” – that I’m test-driving), so I decided to ask myself. Here’s the answer, for what it’s worth, which, I’ll admit, may not be much.
Tim is my best friend. I’m Malo to him. He’s Oakie to me. He’s been that for a long time, all the way back to when we were little kids. We became friends the way most little kids became friends in the early 70’s, on the playground and in the street playing football, basketball, hockey. Playing anything. It happened naturally, there was nothing (air quotes) ‘play date’ about it.
I can’t remember whether Tim was my best friend every day as a kid and, reflecting back, I kind of doubt it. He had a forceful personality, a chip on his shoulder that could be overbearing at times. And I had plenty of other buddies like Nuge, Stretchy, Wags and Hen, so it wasn’t like I was lonely if I’d had a bit too much Tim time.
Inevitably though, we’d mend whatever needed mending, fight some more, mend again – repeat. It was a cycle that kept us together when it probably should have driven us apart. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it’s clear to me now that in our relationship, Tim was the leader and I was the follower. He was bigger than me. Louder than me, and stronger. He would use all of these to his advantage, bossing and jerking me around, calling me names, being an ass. Not all the time, but often enough that I couldn’t forget. I was never sure whether he really liked being that way. I think I know why he was, but that’s a family thing and he’s still figuring that out for himself. I’m not a therapist, but let’s just say I understood.
The BFF Paths Diverge
Tim and I went to different high schools – he to the cool one and I to the uncool one, at least that was his position at the time. “Why doesn’t EA have stairs? Because fairies fly,” I remember him, and others, saying. Ha Ha. Kids. He probably feels differently today, but it doesn’t matter enough to me to ask.
Tim’s a little over a year older than me, so he drove me around a lot from the time he got his license until I got mine. He also taught me to drive. I remember my Dad was like, ‘you’re pretty good at this’ when he was teaching me, an eye brow raised, his suspicions raised. Tim had the fake ID and bought the beer. Being the youngest in a family of 6 kids had provided him with key contacts and resources for those kinds of things. It didn’t matter than ID’s were much easier to forge back then. It only mattered that they worked.
His ’66 Chevy II was a hand-me-down from his older brother, Marty, who worked at the gas station down the road from their house, fixing, trading and flipping cars. Tim would drive me to parties and proms at the all-girls’ schools in that thing. Cinderella’s chariot it was not. I felt like our dates’ parents were probably mortified, but too polite, to tell their girls that they couldn’t (or maybe shouldn’t) go out with us in the ’66. If they thought that, they were probably right. Loaning us their car may have been smarter, and safer, but fortunately – rather than deservedly – things always worked out.
Tim and I went to different colleges too and drifted apart during those four years and the next year and a half as well when my first job took me to another state. Natural, I suppose. We re-connected when I moved back to the area for a year and it was like it was when we were in high school again, except that we both had fiancées and were about to get married. I got married first, and Tim was my best man, the only person I’d considered. He chose his older brother as his best man, and I understood (I think).
3 months after I was married, I moved 850 miles west to Milwaukee. I’m still there today. I became an entrepreneur (more accidentally than purposefully), starting a business and then a family that absorbed all the time I had. All the time I was willing to share.
Tim and his wife moved to Washington, DC. He got a big-time job as a treasurer for a publicly traded company and, later, moved to New York City and quickly became a successful investment banker, specializing in “distressed situations”. Far from me to understand that world, but I could never quite figure out how failing companies always seemed to have the money to pay bankers and lawyers, but no one else.
Along the way, he and his wife divorced, amicably and without the complication of kids.
Cade to The Rescue
There was at least a decade in the mid 90’s through mid 00’s between which Tim and I lost touch. It was a decade of distance and difference. The life of a single, NYC investment banker and that of a Midwestern business-owner with a wife and two kids were, well, different. He changed. I changed. We still had our past. We just didn’t have a present.
Tim remarried. He and his wife wanted a child together. Desperately. Physically, that turned out not to be an option. Their heartbreak was mended by their adoption of a newly born boy. Tim was now a father, and, with that, our friendship began to pick up where it had left off, way back when, before life got in the way.
Tim asked me to be Cade’s Godfather and it made me think about the Best Man thing. Was he trying to make up for that? I never asked. Just because I thought about it didn’t mean it mattered. It was his invitation for me to get back in his life and I was happy to be let back in. In the decade I’ve been a Godfather to Tim’s son, we’ve become best friends again. That’s my belief at least and I’ve never asked him about it (guys don’t need to talk about those kinds of things, right?). I’m pretty sure he’d say I was his best friend, but even if he didn’t, I wouldn’t care. There’s a reason Tim’s the only Havertown kid I still regularly talk, text and see. Yes, his son’s a big reason why – probably the biggest – but I think it’s more than that.
Our lives have taken different directions since we left our childhoods behind. We’ve had our own, and independent, ups, downs and changes. What hasn’t changed is that we probably know more about who each other is (and was, way back when) than anyone else knows about us. That’s our bond. It’s special.
It’s why Tim is my best friend.
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