Bookends: The Healing Power Of Old Friends

A little scruffier, a little balder, but the bond endures.

The most treasured gifts in the world are kind words spontaneously tendered. (Thanks Dewey)

— Jim Collins

It’s December.

Thank goodness.
We find ourselves in the home stretch of a brutal year and at last there is hope that 2021 will treat us better.
Like miners stuck below the surface of the Earth trapped in a dark cocoon of gloomy news— anger, divisiveness, disease and death —those of us still fortunate to be here can find solace that next year will be brighter. It has to be, right?
With any luck, we can resurface and reclaim our lives.
I, for one, can’t wait.
In the years to come, if I am given years to come because I realize that’s not a given, I will look back on 2020 with a mixture of awe, gratitude and dread. I know that’s an odd combination of emotions. But this has been a very odd year.
But despite wave after wave of brutal news, many of us still found some light.
I found my light in the usual place: family and friends.
Close readers of this blog have heard me mention my twice a month Zoom calls with childhood friends.
I write about those calls because they have been a lifeline to me in an extraordinarily challenging year.
It’s been hard to be quarantined.
It was hard to work remotely—because I like the interaction and the kibitzing you get in an office with people you can see right in front of you.
I miss being able to gather with my friends.
I miss happy hours and dinners with a bunch of people.
I miss the movies.
I miss the meetings in coffee shops (and I’ve never even had a cup of coffee).
But the next best thing to being there is Zoom.
To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with the technology but when I think about it, Zoom has been a life raft that has kept me from drowning. Zoom made it possible to see my oldest and dearest friends—if only on a screen.  Those boxes, that contain those familiar faces, have meant the world to me this year.
I hope you have had a similar story of connection during this year of Covid.
Here’s mine.
I grew up in the 70s and early 80s in Stony Brook, located on the north shore of  Eastern Long Island.
From the age of six (not a typo) I was fortunate enough to build a small cadre of friends that have remained in my life for 50 years.
The bond we share is both special and rare.
We’re spread out these days—California, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Arizona, Vermont and Florida.
We went all through school together and stayed close through high school and college.
In our early 30s, we had some reunion weekends and then life took over.
But the pandemic has somehow brought us back together again over Zoom and I couldn’t be happier about it.
While we never drifted apart totally (well a few of us maybe) our communication became spotty and we were never all together anymore. These Zoom meet-ups have changed all that.
Our calls—which usually last about 90 minutes—cover a range of subjects and I always come away energized by the interaction.
When I was asked recently by my dad what it’s been like to “hang out” again with all these guys I told him the one feeling that comes up is pride.
I’m proud that our friendships have lasted.
I’m proud of the men they have become.
I’m blown away by their intelligence, humor, life experience, professional success and by who they are.
They are all interesting. And they are all interested in the world.
So I’m proud of them.
Someday, maybe soon, we will be able to get together in person.
That would be great.
Over the summer, I learned that life can be very fragile. I think we are all learning that lesson these days.
It’s the rapport, the kindness, the playful ribbing and the fact that we serve as the gaps in each other’s fading memories that make for lasting and special friendships.
One of the crazy things about this year is that it has forced us to  take stock of what really matters.
We no longer can take the simple joys of our lives  for granted.
Whether it’s the joy of meeting a friend for dinner, taking a weekend trip or having family over for the holidays—Covid has made sure we will appreciate moments large and small.
For me, when I look back on 2020 I will be forever grateful that every other Wednesday I can find my buddies on a screen if not in person. That’s more than good enough–for now anyway.
I’m just glad to still be around to laugh and share with them.
 Here’s to what comes next guys.


  1. Matt Mueller says

    In 1972 I was on the bus heading to kindergarten. I met a kid named Greg Schroeder. We discovered that we had the same birthday. I also found out that his father had died when he was two. When I came home and told my mom, she was intrigued. She went to grade school with Al Schroeder who had died 2 years earlier. My mom and Al were friends, but they lost track of each other after high school. Could it be? When I inquired the next day I discovered that Greg’s dad and my mom had been childhood friends. What a small world. Last night, 48 years later, we were reminiscing about this on a ZOOM call. Technology is what you make of t!!!

  2. Ron Gilinsky says

    We’re so thankful & grateful you survived the Covid 19 Crisis.
    Many who know you would be lost without your Sensational Wisdom.
    Wishing you continued success in your recovery.
    I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.
    You truly are a Legand🇺🇲‼👍

  3. Kathy Smith says

    I grew up in Westchester County also on Long Island Sound in a family of 10 children. Since beginning of Covid our weekly Sib Zoom has been our “life raft”. We arrive at the same time from Sonoma, LA, Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo, NYC, MA, Melbourne & Delray. We sing happy Birthday across 3 time zones, sounds terrible but also joyous! We have decided even after Covid to continue to connect the reminiscing has soothed our souls.
    Thank you for your lovely article
    Kathy Smith

  4. Jeanne & Terry Persily says

    You barely know us but we were pulling for you this summer. So glad you’re back.

  5. Diane Feen says

    Beautiful – just beautiful and poignant.
    Glad you are still on this ship, even though the waters are choppy.

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