This week someone gave me what I consider to be one of the nicest compliments I’ve received in a long time. I was telling her how in the last two years, I’ve received several surprise visits from friends from my long-ago past who showed up for very special, important occasions. She said simply: that’s the kind of friends you make.
The first visit was during my 60th birthday when two high school friends who had long since moved far away from the east coast showed up at the party my husband craftily planned. He’d invited them thinking I might get a thrill. He was right. One of them I’d stayed very close to over the years and considered family. But the physical distance was so great, we saw each other maybe every two years. The other friend was someone who was a huge part of my past—part of a gang of high school friends who did everything together and remained close after graduation. Even though I kept up with what life was throwing his way, I had not seen him in at least 10 years.
The second surprise visit was more recently at my father’s memorial service. I was overjoyed at some of the good friends that came to visit. But though the service was in my home town, there were people walking into the door whose faces I recognized but could not place. I was delighted to see them after so many years, but kept having to ask: what family are you from? When it dawned on me who one couple was, however, my jaw dropped to the floor. My brother and I had grown close to this couple during the early days of my career here in D.C. and kept in touch for a while when they moved back to Ohio. They had always been in my heart, but I had not seen their lovely faces for more than 20 years.
What both of those occasions did for me was affirm that I’m good at picking out friends. I hadn’t done such a good job in keeping touch in recent years, but obviously they cared enough about me to go to great lengths to be with me during an important time.
It may be something that happens when you get older: you recognize how important people from your past have been to you and you reach out. It certainly happened in my own family as both my mother and father grew closer to their siblings in recent years despite the fact our families all live very far apart.
But I don’t care why it happens; the lesson is clear. Look around at who has been or is important to you and let them know. Life is way too short to waste it spending time with those you don’t care about—seek out those you do.
Genilee Swope Parente