Still Loving Each Other Tomorrow … the power of long-term friendship
The scariest time of my life, paws down, was the week I spent in a city pound. I was about three months old, and didn’t know much about the world, but I knew I hated it in there. I was in a cage with four other puppies, and every day we saw some dogs walk out through one door into a happy new life with cheerful loving humans, but most dogs get walked out through another door, scared and sad, never to come back.
I was a feisty pup, and loved romping and wrestling with – and especially biting! – my cagemates. But when Handsome picked me out to leave with him, I was so overjoyed to be freed, I never even looked back at them.
At least not until later. In my dreams.
Ever since, I’ve always been haunted by the question – what ever happened to those friends I had? Which ones got taken out, like me, into loving homes? Did any escape? And, worst of all, were there any who didn’t get to leave, except by that “other door” I mentioned earlier?
I’ll never know. And I can’t imagine that, if I met one of them today, we’d recognize each other. So the mystery will last as long as I do.
I bring this up because one thing you humans get to have, way more than us pooches, is long-term distant friendships. We have people or dogs we meet at some time, and see again a year or two later (this happens a lot with our humans’ families, for example, whom we’ll encounter fairly regularly in visits), and we’ll remember their smells and who was playful and who wasn’t. But you guys get to have long friendships that are truly profound.
For example, my friend Handsome recently went on a weekend trip with some guys who he met when they were all in first grade together! They were great friends when they were six years old, and here they were, talking about their jobs, politics, sports, wives, children… (hmmm… I’m not sure if I heard there was ANY conversation about dogs. That’s annoying!)… all a million miles away from the interests they’d had when they’d originally met.
And when Handsome told me about it – and this seems to happen often when he meets up with people he’s known for a long time – what he finds most fascinating about the meeting is always how many ways his friends have changed, and how many ways they’ve stayed the same. The one who had the best comic book collection when they were nine, and is talking passionately today about what’s right and wrong with the different Batman movies. The one who was obsessed with animal anatomy as a young child, and today will notice a new bird from across a park. The one who directed a class play in fifth grade, and is worrying about the future of theater and cinema in the digital age. And yet, the one who was the worst dresser now wears the most stylish clothes, the one who was the most politically conservative is now the most liberal… it just goes on and on.
The way I see it, knowing someone well, and then meeting up with them years, or decades, later, is like being in one of those funhouses with warped mirrors. Where you look at your reflection and see long legs, a tiny torso, a gigantic head, etc. Because some of the qualities those people had long ago have shrunk, and become almost invisible, while others have grown so large as to dominate their lives. Imagine if you’d known, say, Barack Obama as a child. Maybe he’d have had some silly, playful qualities. I’m sure he still does, but we don’t see them much. Maybe he also showed some slight tendency to be a leader, maybe wanting to be the captain of teams when he’d play sports? Well that quality has pretty much become his definition now.
When it comes to me, I imagine those puppies in that cage would say that Shirelle (though I hadn’t been named yet) was all about biting – and I really don’t do that much anymore. But that she also liked to try to run. Which became my obsession later. But I’ll bet they would never have seen bratty me as someone who’d spend her day trying to help anyone – what I do here all the time!
So try to imagine it for yourself. Look at the friends you have now, and think – what will they be like in ten years? Twenty? Forty?! And what will you be like? Will you still be as romantic, or optimistic, or cynical as you are now? (That’ll probably depend on how things go for you over the years) Will you still love the same things you love today? (Most likely some but not all) Will you still care most about the same issues? Will you still have the same opinions? Will you still be as shy or as talkative, or as anxious or as confident, or as trusting or as cautious?
There’s no way of knowing.
And what’s difficult is you can’t even know for sure which friends you have today who’ll still be your friends then. Maybe things will happen in your life that put you on such opposing sides of an issue that they ruin a great friendship. Maybe someone who’s a casual acquaintance today will become far closer to you over time. Maybe someone you love like a sibling today will decide later that you’re not good enough and cut you out of their life. I’ve seen Handsome experience all of these. It’s often painful, and always surprising.
And this all adds up to me wishing for you to look at the friends you have today, especially the ones who’ve been your friends for some time, and let yourself feel some enormous gratitude for them. Don’t take them for granted! Real friendships, the ones that last, are miraculous. They’re just about the greatest treasure life can offer.
And then, if you want to make me really happy, get out there and do something about it! Text them a joke. Write them on Facebook and say, “You rock!” (Or “You stink!” – if that’s what your friendship’s like!)
Or, if that friend happens to be the very best kind of friend there is, you can always go up to them and give them a hug, scratch their ears, kiss them on the nose, and say “Good doggy!”
But whatever you do, just be sure you appreciate how amazing it is that they’re still in your life. And making it that much more magical.
Wow. Something bizarre has just happened. It’s sad but with such perfect timing, I can’t ignore it.
The piece you’ve just read is what I intended to write. But just now, right when I was about to post it, I found out that someone I never met, but who was important to me, passed away today. His name was Gerry Goffin, and he co-wrote a lot of great songs. Some of my favorites. Like “One Fine Day” and “Up on the Roof.” And the most famous song ever recorded by the group who I was named after. So I will close this piece, about how you never know what’s going to happen in relationships, with a quote from this wonderful song, by this man the world will mourn:
Tonight you’re mine, completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?
We will, Mr. Goffin. And every day after.