What makes a best friend

I have a best friend.  I suppose I have two.  My wife is truly my best friend and I’ll more than likely elaborate on that here some day.  She is closer to me than anyone else in the world.  But that’s not what’s weighing on me today.  Today, I am thinking about my other best friend.  My best friend who’s not my partner in life.

I have a best friend.  To make this post easier to relate to, I’m going to give him a name – let’s call him Chris.  I would call Chris my best friend for a number of reasons, but as I went through the day today thinking about my relationship with him, I thought it might be best that I remind myself of these reasons – and thus, the start of another blog post.  I don’t know if Chris will ever see this, but as I start writing this, I realize I’m not writing this for him, I’m writing this for me.

I met Chris when I was 8 years old.  Chris was a friend of a couple of my friends – they all lived in Mill Woods, and I was visiting the other friends.  I was introduced to Chris and within minutes we were playing road hockey, far from home base – many blocks away from safety and the comfort of a familiar place.  This is what 8 year-old boys do – they will go anywhere to get a game going and so we did.  I don’t remember much about this day, nor the game – except for this…. things got heated with some boys substantially older and bigger than us.  As always, Wildsau’s temper got the best of him, and he started swinging and threatening death.  The only thing is, there were four of us – and about a dozen of them, each older, bigger and faster than any of us.  It was a suicide mission.

I believe the other 3 were already convinced this wasn’t going to end well, but I fought to the bitter end.  As the icy-cold grip of reality crept up my spine, and my venom  started giving way to German rational thinking, the fear of what could happen to me took over and I backed off and followed my 3 friends.  We all started beating a hasty retreat – only to be followed by the older boys.  I didn’t know Mill Woods well at all.  The two friends I knew high-tailed it into the sunset, leaving me behind to try to find my way to safety in a strange, suddenly foreign place.  The most distinct memory I have of that day is feeling very alone and scared – and running for my life down alleys I’d never seen before.  I could hear the footsteps behind me, pounding, and coming closer and closer, but at that point, I didn’t dare turn around for fear of losing my lead and getting caught.  When I finally couldn’t run any more, and hid beside a garage as my last resort (many blocks from where I should have been, it turned out), I turned to face my attackers – and saw that it was only one set of footsteps that had been behind me – and they were Chris’ footsteps.  He had chosen to follow me instead of hanging me out to dry with those older boys, risking his own skin in the process.  And this was after having only met me that day.  That was the beginning of our friendship, and we’ve never turned back.

Chris and I have been friends for almost 30 years now.  And I want to tell you some things about Chris – things that a) make him a better man than most, b) make me look up to him, and c) make him my best friend.

We’ve been through a lot together, Chris and I.  And through all these peaks and valleys, I never felt as though Chris judged me or my motives.  Chris appears to have accepted my fatal flaws throughout these 30 years, and yet he has stuck around, playing an enormous role in my life and now in my family’s life.

Chris and I have laughed innumerable times over things that only we would find funny – and we both ended up standing by each other through times where laughing was the last thing on our minds.

It occurred to me that I can recount Chris being by my side through my deepest valleys, for those times remain etched on our souls longer than the happy times, perhaps because they have the ability to carve deep scars into our memories, often laced with loss and pain. I’ve lost my dad and my brother – both in the same summer – Chris was there for me.  I went through a very difficult time when my mother remarried, and I made some very poor decisions towards my new dad as I was growing up and learning what being a man was really about – Chris was there for me.  I’ve went through more relationships that failed than I care to recount – Chris was there for me.  I was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery and treatments to follow that up for the next two years – Chris was there for me.

I have seen other friendships come and go, some of them ebbing away over time, some ending in a moment – many that puzzled me, hurt me, drove me to blind, white-hot rage – Chris wasn’t one of them, and he was there for me.  I’ve needed a shoulder to cry on – I’ve never had to ask Chris to be there for me, he just knew.  I’ve had good news to share – Chris was there for me, and always celebrated with me as though it was his own news.

There are things between Chris and I that have happened, where we weren’t so much at odds, but rather agreed to disagree.  That’s what a good match-up of friends does.  We don’t always see things the same way, yet we’ve never spoken to each other in anger.  I can’t speak for my friend, but I can honestly say I’ve never been angry at Chris.  In 30 years.  Think about that for a moment.

I share some passions with Chris – mainly cars (specifically Audis) and driving fast, movies, Apple products, good food…. the list goes on.  I know I can always count on Chris to hear me out regarding my love for these things, where most people would leave the room, shaking their head and likely calling Alberta Hospital.  I have a problem, and it is tangential thinking – this thinking directly controls my speech, and I know it is hemorrhoidal to listen to.  I start talking about something, and within minutes, I’ve touched on a dozen different topics.  I would hate having a conversation with me.  But my friend never complains – he still listens to me after all these years, and I appreciate that about him.  As a matter of fact, I count on him to remind me of something many, many times: “What were we talking about again?”

There are things I’ve done that weigh heavily on my soul.  Things I can’t ever take back, repair, or save.  And one of those things goes back to my wedding day.  If I could do it all over again, I’d never make this mistake again, and I continue to think about it often.  I don’t dwell on it, but I leave it bookmarked in my mind, as a reminder and a valuable lesson.  Even though I had known for many years that Chris was my best friend and my closest confidante, I chose to make someone else my best man at my wedding.  It was the friend who first introduced Chris and I to each other – I’ve actually been friends with him longer than with Chris, but with very little depth to our friendship.  This friend was married to my wife’s twin, and somehow the packaging just made it seem as though that was how it was supposed to be.  I knew, even before the wedding, that it wasn’t right, and I told Chris so.  I’ve also talked to him about it many times since – yet I felt he never held it against me, nor judged me for it.  Thank you, Chris, for knowing that our friendship ran much deeper then and now and that it goes far beyond the title of best man.

Chris is, without a doubt in my mind, the most loyal friend I’ve ever had.  Chris would move mountains to help someone out, and would likely do significantly more to help a friend.

I trust Chris with my life, and the lives of my family.  I’m so proud to see my girls call him Uncle Chris, and go running into his arms when he comes over.  I’m so glad my wife likes Chris, and that they get along so well.  I’m certain this situation isn’t unique to us, but without question, Chris is more family to us than some of our real family.  And that says a lot.

I can’t put into words how much Chris means to me, and what a difference he has made in my life.  And I can’t imagine that our friendship will ever end.  We’ve done so many things together – we’ve done great things together, we’ve done horrible things together – yet one common thread binds them together – I don’t regret any of the things we’ve done together because they were with my best friend.  Thank you, Chris, for choosing to stick with me on the first day we met – and thanks for choosing to continue doing exactly the same thing for me in the 30 years since then.  Thanks for being there for me, Chris – you’re not just my friend, you’re my brother.

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