LOL, W/E, PEEPS, BTW, ANR8, IDK, IAC, AND BFF. Today’s quick texting shorthand has reduced language to a series of innocuous letters. Language condensed to abbreviations to be thumbed in text messages or “tweets”. Actually, I am old enough to remember when LOL meant “lots of luck” — a sarcastic phrase of eminent failure.
Texting and social networks make sending messages easy, but it has also cheapened language and meaning. Facebook, for example, casually degrades the term friend. Can anyone have 2679 friends? Really? Acquaintances, maybe. Contacts, possibly. But friends? I doubt it.
A guy named Lou proves it. He’s my best friend. BFF? No, I don’t want to cheapen our relationship by applying shorthand to it. It’s too important.
Actually, I never knew Lou existed when I was “young.” No, we don’t go back to high school days, didn’t play hockey together, nor did I meet him in college. Lou proves you can meet your best friend at the ripe, might I say, old age of 56.
We bonded during his heart attack. Yes, a heart attack. You never really know the circumstances when you are going to meet a lasting friend. I didn’t know him well then. He was just starting his job at the university and I heard about him from his reputation through some students who worked with him. We were both former school superintendents trying a second career teaching graduate students.
Well, Lou survived his “heart episode”, we both quit our university jobs, and we decided to become business partners. The atmosphere and culture at the university was something alien to us. We used to joke that we were working in a place trapped in “Ground Hog Day”, experiencing the same meeting over and over again with the same result — “we’ll meet again next month.” So we started a consulting business, and worked together for thirteen years.
As business partners, it was easy. We had the same values and philosophy, but different styles. He was anal and linear, and I was a bit random abstract. “A bit random” was open to debate, due to his hyper attention to details. Our business plan just evolved naturally. Lou handled the financials and I managed marketing. Our names were on the letterhead, both our reputations were on the line, and we worked hard. We talked every morning around 8:15 [Lou’s concern for details] and made a real “go” of the business.
We made presentations together for clients and, we shared victories and defeats — after all, we were “partners”, a term we used first platonically. He even forgave me when I “lost it” and told a school board member that all intelligence does not rest on the east and west coasts. Strong emotional ties developed that only comes from working together, covering for each other, and, most importantly, understanding each other.
Driving together all over New England to meet clients, we first shared war stories of our work exploits. Slowly we began discussing more than work experiences. Men, as the stereotype goes, don’t talk about feelings or emotions. But friends do and we opened the door to personal stories: children, my divorce, humorous and poignant family stories from years past. To this day, we miss driving together and laughing and joking. But we could also ride in silence and be quiet together. With trust, comes truth and openness.
In the tragedy of my daughter’s death, Lou was “there.” There’s not much anyone can say about heartbreak like that. Unlike others he didn’t have the usual, clichéd uneasy and awkward fate or faith-based answers to such a devastating personal event. Great friends don’t have to say a word. They are just present emotionally, as well as physically and mentally. He simply stood next to me: there for me to lean on and cry.
After almost 14 years, Lou and I dissolved our business partnership, but not our friendship. I love Lou and he loves me. Business was business, but friendship is on a totally different and higher plane than legal agreements, clients or business tax records. Father Time intervened. Business is over but deep friendship remains.
Today, we meet regularly for lunches, and talk a bit about old times as business partners. But that’s not why we meet. We are friends — we don’t need a reason to meet. Now when we leave to leave to go home to our families, we say, “I love you.” Friendship and love go hand-in-and, you know. And yes, Lou and I will be friends forever — even when one of us is gone.