Father Tony

The feet, of Rene Magritte, in the sand, with friends at hand.

Filed By Father Tony | September 18, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: friends with benefits

dear father tony. how much longer must we wonder? why such seperation of time and miles?have we become so involved with our immediate existance that the past seems so distant, so unaprochable.?i fear but will not will not except .dosent life itself offer more of an oppertunity.? lets live as we once did!!!

Dear Alan (and did you think for a moment I wouldn't recognize your voice between the lines? And, the email address was helpful.) I miss you! And, I see you have yet to take my advice about not touching the phone or the computer after that fourth beer.

How many years has it been since we have seen you and Bill? We think about you guys often. Thirty years is a long friendship, Daisy Buchanan.

When we first met, I still had the scent of the Vatican on my neck, and you were a slender platinum blonde who had modeled for a photographer who handed you the leashes of two greyhounds. You knew everything I did not know. I knew everything you did not know. In common, we had a sensitivity to visual beauty, mothers who lurked in our lives like the wrecks of battle ships in Pearl Harbor, the self-taught ability to twirl a baton, and the good luck to partner well, once and forever.

I'm here in Provincetown for the week, thinking about time, memory, friendship, loss and the next winter to harden the warm sand beneath my feet. I can escape it in Fort Lauderdale over and over again, but I cannot escape it forever. What will be left of us, like refugees fallen asleep on the grassy roadside while making the long journey home? What did we choose to bring with us for the long haul? What will they find in our knapsacks, the weight of which never outstripped its value? I hope our friendship is something that will never become unbearable.

Into the midst of my seaside thinking about our ticketed and measured time of open eyes comes a letter from Eric Leven, a contributor here at Bilerico, who will not mind me quoting him about Provincetown.

Of course PTown is as magical as it is, for the land's end is a spiral and all who inhabit it are bound to live life counter-clockwise.

He's right, and as I stand with my feet covered by the last push of each new wave, I feel encased in a cubicle composed of exactly four interlocked doors with no roof or ceiling, and hovering just above the sand. One opens onto the past, one to the future, one reveals a desk, and the fourth leads to love. I am spinning inside the relentless reverberation of their slamming, and you are wondering why C and I haven't been in touch with you and Bill in such a long time. It ain't for lack of desire, and this leads me to collect my thoughts and to come up with a list of rules for good friendship. You and I are proof that friendships can last, and I suspect you will agree with my extremely incomplete list, and that you will want to add to it.

Do not ditch friends. They are for life so be careful about the ones you acquire.

Friends do not need to measure up to your expectations. They do not need to perform to your standards. They do not need to be perfect. Expect to really hate some of the food they lovingly make for you on a regular basis. Expect them to sometimes lose at love and to need you to side with them even if you think they were the source of the problem in the relationship. Expect to marvel at some of their politics and some of their clothing choices. Expect to see them put on fifty pounds and learn to see them as if they were still skinny. Go out to a gay bar with them even if they visually reduce your status. Treat them with esteem when you are socializing with them in a group. Realize that it is only a matter of time before you are the one with no mate, no money, bad shoes, dumb opinions and an extra fifty pounds.

Do not disclose to others the personal and private things you know about them. This is sometimes a spectacularly difficult thing to do. In recent years, an entire protocol has been unofficially developed about how HIV status is disclosed or nor disclosed among friends and acquaintances. If a friend tells you in confidence that he is HIV+ and swears you to secrecy, saying that only you and the doctor know this, you had better be willing to keep that secret to the grave if required. You should keep that secret even if you think that gay men should always disclose their HIV status. You should keep that secret even when you are drunk. You have no right to dictate this decision to anyone else. Consider it an honor and a privilege and a responsibility to have been told this or any secret.

Expect friends to sometimes be a hell of a lot of work.

Learn how to argue with a friend so that he or she is never made to feel bad about their opinion.

Learn to mark up your annual calendar with significant events in the lives of your friends. Births, deaths, divorces, sicknesses, affairs, shared experiences. It's like keeping a "friends" diary. This is a project that takes one full year to get off the ground. Once you've been through the first annual cycle, you need only add things to keep it fresh. You can't begin by asking friends for birthdates and important milestones. You have to share those experiences and then note them on your calendar. Can you imagine how much a friend will appreciate getting a card or hearing you say "Today is the fifth anniversary of Max's death. I know how much you loved that dog." When they say "Wow. How did you remember that?", you just shrug. You don't mention the calendar.

Put yourself out for your friends when they don't ask for your help because they don't want to burden you. Volunteering to take a friend to the airport and pick them up after their vacation is a very great act of kindness (and one that should result in you receiving a very nice thank-you purchase from some exotic place that they have just visited.) When your friend says he is looking for sponsorship for his four mile run in Central Park to benefit God's Love We Deliver, give something, even if it is meager. You'll feel good.

Listen to their problems even when they call and you're in bed and half asleep. If you choose to screen the call because you have a major presentation scheduled for tomorrow (One that might be a life-changing event for you) and need sleep, be sure to call your friend in the morning and tell them the truth.

Do not under any circumstances tell one friend the age of another. Asking for that information is rude enough (as if we were sequoia), but disclosing it is criminal. Funny how I never cared about this when I was in my t-numbers (twenties or thirties) but now, I am in my f-numbers, the speaking or writing of which is anathema. God knows how I'll feel when I reach the s-numbers.

Friendships, unlike crystal, can be repaired and can gain value despite the cracks. You and I, Alan, are like Limoges table settings strewn on the deck of the Titanic, a bit mossy and submerged but, when dredged and cleaned up, still ready and able to sparkle and serve. We've been somewhere, and like those folks who have the good sense to duck and shut up when the bank robbers fill the air with bullets, we've been careful with each other in the nervous times and in the giddy ones.

Alan, I'm going to leave you now, for another brilliant day is upon me in this mystical town. No proofing, no editing will I bother with. It's the fanning of the bicycle spokes, the beating of the gull wings, the pastel swiping of clouds overhead taking time lapsed photos of you and me in separate places on this odd little globe.

C says hello. He asks me to remind you that our phone number has not changed. Give Bill our best.


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Hi Tony
Excellent rules to maintain friends...if only we all remembered them.
Thank you

Dear Dray,
If only I could always remember them.

Here's your terrific list so far:

Loyalty
Forgiveness
Discretion
Effort
Compassion
Reminiscences
Generosity
Attention
Gentleness

The only thing I can add is laughter, loud and frequent. And maybe sand between your toes.

Which is a very good addition indeed.

I have been pondering some recent exchanges in a cherished lifelong friendship. Your lovely kind words reminded me of a few things I need to fix about myself. Thanks Father Tony.