Some weeks ago, I had two exhilarating experiences.
I decided to reconnect with old friends. These weren't guys I knew from let's say, 10 or 15 years ago. The friendships went very far back. In one instance, it involved two friends from my teen years: I hadn't seen Hal for 20 years and last saw Don 10 years ago.
My other friend, Stan, was a college roommate with whom I'd lost contact 50 (that's right, 50) years ago.
Dinner with Hal and Don was at a Japanese restaurant in Mount Kisco, New York. Lunch with Stan was a few weeks later at a French restaurant in Manhattan. Each get-together was an incredible, life-affirming experience.
Yes, we spent the first 40 minutes "catching up" with each other's lives. There were marriages, divorces, business successes and some failures, and we talked about the many ups and downs that occur in any life.
But what struck me about these get-togethers -- whether with Don and Hal, or later with Stan -- whether we dined on sushi or filet mignon -- was after a half hour of kicking around the past and filling in the blanks of many years apart, we found ourselves in the moment together, just like when being with each other was an everyday occurrence. Nothing was strained or forced. We slipped into the comfortable ease of just enjoying our time together.
It seemed the intervening decades hadn't interrupted a thing. We joked and laughed with the same easy gusto as years ago, as though we hadn't missed a beat. There was a vivid and remarkably invigorating nowness in the experiences.
Time seemed to have telescoped for all of us.
Now, we were just old friends (in both meanings of the word) sharing each other's company. Being together was as satisfying as the food served in each restaurant.
I had initiated these reunions when we were all around 70 years of age. Why hadn't I done this sooner? Why had I waited all those years to reconnect, especially since I thought about these friends often? Was I afraid to discover we'd traveled such different paths, the bonds which drew us together when we were young, would no longer hold?
For us, in the hourglass of life, there's more sand at the bottom than is left trickling from the top. No matter how busy we are with our lives, regardless of how strong and vital we feel, time is not an infinite horizon, the way it felt when we were young. I had to take the chance to see if these people, who were so important to me years ago, could still connect with me (and I with them) in an enduring way. Would there remain the essential elements of friendship which drew us together years ago?
Finding out was the risk I had to take.
In life, you can't go back and recapture the past. These reunions could have been a disappointment, if all we shared were fond memories.
Fortunately, these friends from long ago remained the same solid people whose friendship I treasured then, and with whom I'm enjoying the here-and-now. So yes, for us, it seemed time had telescoped in a wonderful way.
If you're lucky, a good friend is a true friend, always.
Mark and Hal (right) at 20, 1962