Last night I was dis­tressed to find myself even con­tem­plat­ing such a thought.

Most of my friend­ships date back either to the ear­li­est days of my child­hood or vir­tu­al­ly every aspect, age, age group and stage of my life in between. Some of my friends were old­er and won­der­ful­ly loy­al to me, as I was to them, then with their advanc­ing age came their pass­ing. I think those friend­ships, some even pen­friend­ships, have spoiled me.

Why does it feel so bad to think that a new friend­ship (of 4 years) with some­one only 10 years younger than me may not be so healthy and mutu­al for me? Espe­cial­ly after so many years of true friend­ships with peo­ple of all ages.

It has tak­en me a long time to dis­cov­er that ‘friend­ships’ can come in degrees and some may not be salvageable.

Per­haps I should go back to my phrase ‘inti­mate acquain­tances’, which I’ve always felt has typ­i­fied what many peo­ple in the US often con­fuse as ‘friend­ship’. Such rela­tion­ships are often fleet­ing, espe­cial­ly for fam­i­lies and peo­ple who move around the coun­try dur­ing their career years and nev­er actu­al­ly set­tle in one place for very long.

I sup­pose the thing that defines true friend­ship to me is the depend­abil­i­ty upon each oth­er at our time of great­est need and the sup­port and love we, who are par­ents, give to each other’s chil­dren. That is def­i­nite­ly how I deter­mine my friend­ships. It is also a thread that runs through my fam­i­ly — prob­a­bly where I learned it.

My father only had one true and good friend in his adult life although he was always with a crowd in his youth and very well liked at work and around fam­i­ly and fam­i­ly friends. When that true friend was report­ed sim­ply as ‘in hos­pi­tal’ my father drove to every hos­pi­tal in the town to find him. He did, and it was just as well because that was the last time they met.

Per­haps it was los­ing his own father when he was in his ear­ly 20’s and then his best friend when they were in their 30’s, that caused my father to be more self suf­fi­cient for the rest of his life. I like to think that he was so self suf­fi­cient and accept­ing of him­self that he didn’t ‘need’ any more friend­ships in his life.

I know he was a beloved and respect­ed son, broth­er, uncle, hus­band, son-in-law, father and grand­fa­ther. How for­tu­nate can one per­son be? Friends, col­leagues and rel­a­tives alike spoke so high­ly of him at his funer­al; dying sud­den­ly when he was only 68.

His smil­ing face looks down upon me from my favourite pho­to of him as I write each day. His qual­i­ties and val­ues have sus­tained my broth­er and me, and our chil­dren too (even the three who nev­er knew him), in the 25 years since that pic­ture was tak­en, per­haps a year before he died.

I have recent­ly writ­ten a biog­ra­phy of his life for the his­tor­i­cal soci­ety to which he ded­i­cat­ed the few retire­ment years he had.

Did he have friend­ships with­in that group? I think he knew a lot of peo­ple but was sat­is­fied with the full­ness of his life. At that point he’d acquired a son-in-law and two young grand­sons. He did­n’t dote on his grand­sons, like many mod­ern grand­par­ents, but he cer­tain­ly went out of his way in his inim­itable kind­ly fash­ion to make the time they spent togeth­er extreme­ly spe­cial and appro­pri­ate to their ages (6 and 3 years old). 

He had a new daugh­ter-in-law with a fam­i­ly that includ­ed Mum and Dad in all fam­i­ly gath­er­ings, mak­ing life inter­est­ing. He trav­elled with my moth­er, spent more hours than many using his years of exper­tise mak­ing sure the remod­elled his­tor­i­cal society’s build­ing would be in keep­ing with its his­to­ry and sur­round­ings and, most of all, he retained his life­long love of sailing.

He made his own life full but he did it while still car­ing for his fam­i­ly, his com­mu­ni­ty and him­self in equal or bal­anced parts it seemed.

Per­haps the time has come for me to do the same. Refo­cus my pri­or­i­ties and be sat­is­fied with the peo­ple I’ve known, loved and lost, but most espe­cial­ly those who are around me and enrich my life right now.

I sort of feel that you can’t have any form of rela­tion­ship with­out it being a two way street. That doesn’t mean that anoth­er per­son has to ‘give’ to you, but you do have to feel that you are actu­al­ly mak­ing a worth­while con­tri­bu­tion to the life of anoth­er and that they appre­ci­ate it. 

We all need to feel val­ued. Per­haps it is time for me to place a greater val­ue on myself and the friends and fam­i­ly I already have than on some sort of neb­u­lous ‘inti­mate acquain­tance­ship’ that is sim­ply fired by loneliness.