Sunday, April 30, 2006

Friendship and Sentimentalism

Often on this blog, I get an urge to share ideas I have that only border on fostering, or have little to do with it at all. This is one such time.

Yesterday and today were rainy days, and I had occasion today to drive for a good hour and a half alone, listening to music and thinking about things long past. Rain does that to me, and driving in the rain does it twice as much.

When I was growing up and all the time since, one thing Mom has been big on is nurturing my memories of growing up. My earliest memory is when I was about 1 1/2...I have clearer and more numerous memories starting when I was about 4, and they rapidly become uncountable when I got old enough for school. Mom sees value, as do I, in hanging on to those. My sister doesn't seem to remember much further back than last week, but I'll get into that some other time.

I've been accused once or twice of being overly sentimental. Of being too idealistic, too nostalgic, and generally just too soft. Some of this has been true of me in the past; I don't think it's true of me now. The difference is that there was a time when this sentimentality, nostalgia and so on were, in some areas and to some degree, acting as a crutch and crippling my life. That's when you know you have a problem. It's the same test as for drug or alcohol addiction...does it make your life more difficult?

But in the last few years, I've gotten over most of the hangups I've had about the past and I think I've managed to keep the related good bits about myself mostly intact. The biggest of those good bits is my ability to be a great friend.

While driving today, Bon Jovi's "Blood on Blood" came on. It's a song about how people can become friends when they're kids, and how that friendship can stick with them for life:
Through the years and miles between us
It's been a long and lonely ride
But if I got a call in the dead of the night
I'd be right by your side
As I listened to that song, I did a rough count of the friends I've had throughout my life that could call me in the middle of the night tonight and ask me to come with no questions and I'd be out the door before I could get my pants zipped. Excluding my immediate family, The Wife and any kids living with us, there are 7.

How unbelievable is that? 7 people who I love and who love me, excluding family. Many people never have a single one, which is a fact I've only gradually come to fully appreciate as I've gotten older. When I was young, I thought everybody had best friends, nobody lacked friends that would do anything for them, the tooth fairy lived in a fantastic enamel castle on an island in the ocean and Santa Claus was real. Turns out there are a lot of people hurting out there and don't have anyone they even trust to share their problems with, much less who will help them.

Not only do I believe that any of these seven would come running if I called, but two of them have when I had a couple of crises in my life.

These are not ordinary, run-of-the-mill friends. While every friend has value and I would never describe friends as a dime a dozen, friends can--and sometimes do--come and go. These are people whose lives I've shared a long time, through difficult times as well as some of the best times of my life. We have shared history. They pretty much all touched my life during some portion of my formative years, they all made me feel like I was a really great person when I spent time with them, and I wish I could see them all these days more than I get to.

When people play that game about "if you could invite any X number of people who ever lived to a dinner party, who would they be?" my first seven slots would be taken by these people, because while several of them know each other, not all of them do and I'd love to host a party like that. The other people I'd invite would be Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Leonard Nimoy, but that's a whole other post.

When people call a certain piece of music or art "sentimental crap", it bothers me, especially when the same person professes to be "idealistic" in political or other arenas. How can you disdain sentimentalism and yet be idealistic? The two go hand in hand.

So the bottom line is that I'm a saphead...but there are certain advantages to that, and I wouldn't trade them for a million bucks.


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