“Nobody likes me. ... hates me.” That’s the kind of thing that I used to say when I was a kid. “Well then, you might as well go eat worms.” That’s the kind of answer my mom would give me. Eat wo
“Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me.” That’s the kind of thing that I used to say when I was a kid. “Well then, you might as well go eat worms.” That’s the kind of answer my mom would give me. Eat worms? For crying out loud! No wonder I am the way I am.
See, it’s my mom’s fault that I didn’t have any friends—nobody wants to hang around with a kid who eats worms. I had even tried to tell her this well-known fact. Would she listen? Noooooo. Well, maybe my mom knew what kind of a complainer she had for a son, and just refused to put up with it. It’s possible. Difficult to believe, but possible.
Finding somebody to be your friend when you’re a whiner is hard—at least it was for me. It was even harder for me to keep them—my mom wouldn’t let me. “Find somebody nice,” she’d say. “Nice?” I’d ask. “Yes, your sister has nice friends. Why can’t you be like her?” That is why little miss perfect got locked in the basement.
By the time I could drive I did have a few friends, but only because they needed somebody to pick on. Poor me. They were better than nothing, though, and besides, none of them would last. It’s a sad truth. Time tests friendships, and most of mine have exploded into bits and pieces that I call memories, because that is all that is left of them. That road they call life is not much fun to walk alone, and though I know this, I still wonder why we choose to abandon one another along the way. Solitude is the regrettable prize won through pettiness.
Overcoming differences is one of the ways I have learned to measure a friendship. If a smooth path exists, I haven’t found it. The unspoken covenant is not for me to embrace every footstep that my friend makes, but rather to simply accept their placement. If I want the relationship to last, I have to be willing to offer compassion in the face of defeat, and, even more importantly, be willing to accept it.
Oddly enough, my best friend is a girl. We used to spend a lot of time together when we were teenagers and we even joked around about getting hitched and having ten kids—but it never happened like that. Looking back, I doubt that I would ever have gotten married if it weren’t for her. From the instant I met her I knew that we were going to be friends. What I didn’t know was that this friendship would last. Within her is a sanctuary where my heart may speak and know that it is heard. It is outside of judgment and inside of laughter. There I have wings to fly after dreams without the burdens of doubt. A poetic place where failure cannot find me, for she has hidden it too well. When I am with her, I am not the person I know; rather, I am what I had always hoped to be. What more could I ask for?
The fact that we are both married now has changed everything about our relationship. No longer do we write or call one another with any kind of frequency. I have never forgotten what it felt like to be friendless, and I sometimes worry about how my life would change if something happened to her. No replacement could fill the break in my heart. I dare not imagine how alone I would feel. If you haven’t guessed, my best friend is my wife; they are one and the same.
The time will soon come when our children will move on and leave us with one another. What my wife and I have cultivated over the years goes beyond the boundaries of marriage. I still laugh when I hear that phrase, “Marry your best friend,” because I don’t believe that it can be done. It takes a lifetime to create a best friend. Best friends have scars where they have cut each other and healed each other. The proof I see in the eyes of the old, who have fired the metal of friendship longer than I have been alive.
The physical appearance of a couple that has remained married for untold years is but an illusion. What I failed to recognize for so long is how time has honored them. Skin soft and worn that hangs loosely is the reminder that they have resisted the pull of adversity. Weakened legs and swaying backs are not from age, but from carrying one another through difficult times. They are not deaf; rather, they simply understand that no other voice is as significant as that of their spouse. It was my ears that were deaf, for the whisper of their words speaks the language of wisdom. Our elders are proof of strength so great that even Death cannot part them.
Marry the person you love. Hang on to one another as you ride through all the ditches life throws at you. Don’t quit, and, God willing, you’ll find what I have: a real best friend.