I spent a delightful Friday afternoon recently with my cousin, in her living room. She had her bottle of white, I had my bottle of red, and the coffee table was spread with snacks/finger food/munchies. We covered quite a bit of ground in those seven hours.

One thing I learned was that my cousin was pretty well expressively forbidden to attend her sister’s son’s wedding. My cousin has two sisters, and over the years, the one who gets voted off the island changes; but I had no idea it could be so malicious as to coaching a barely-thirty to invite some people to his wedding, and find a few new ways to say “you’re not invited and you’re not welcome.” My cousin is still torn up about it, tears coming to her eyes. Me? Well, I was voted off the island years ago; my mourning has been done.

We also chatted about those superficial Facebook Friends; this was my topic to chew on with her. I was on Facebook for awhile, a couple of years, maybe. But, I found myself spending most of my time not reading, only hiding, what others had posted. Too much monologue, too much in the “here’s what I’m doing department” and not enough in the “what are you doing department.” I do spend quite a bit of time reading other blogs, but I am picky about subject matter. Just because it is a former high school classmate, I am still not interested in her/his dog/cat/goldfish. I might very well be the most widely travelled of that bunch; maybe that is why I don’t gravitate to those with blinders and rose-colored glasses. I finally deactivated my account and have never looked back.

What we talked about, my cousin and I, was relationships. Good, healthy, positive, affirming relationships, as well as negative, toxic relationships. She, like my wife, has a very high social need and thrives on people in her life; yet she found the time to spend practically a whole day chatting with jus’ li’l ol’ me. I can’t think of a better way to spend my precious time; and I can’t think of even a handful of people I would do that with. We didn’t solve anything of course; we weren’t there to problem solve, but to share. Whether she found the conversation helpful or not, only time will tell; this posting is what I discovered.

And what I discovered, talking aloud about people I have known over the years, is that I need to work harder with those relationships I do value.

There are those people I see frequently, and those I don’t see at all. Because I work nights, and my wife owns her own business, we don’t spend nearly enough time together. Well, not enough for me; but maybe enough for her (too much?). Because I was voted off the island and my little rubber dingy was torpedoed, I haven’t seen Daughter #1 in years and years. THAT relationship is tough to improve since trying to keep in touch with her is like, well like, what my cousin’s nephew did to her when he got married. Daughter #2 is coming back home; having learned one of life’s greatest and most painful lessons. Hopefully, she stays awhile, and we are able to move into from a pretty good to a very good relationship; anyway, she needs nurturing and we are stocking up on her comfort food. Everyone needs a home, a place where they can scratch whatever itches (thanks to Reverend Joe for that definition).

A guy I met at work years ago, who is one of the smartest people I have ever known, can think of nothing to do with his leisure time than drink beer and watch sports on tv. I’ve never developed a taste for beer, and I don’t even own a tv; but he and his wife visited me when I lived in Mongolia and Hungary – the only visitors I had. And, again while I was in Rome; though we had other visitors then. Point is, he’s put forth the effort – put his money where his mouth is: he has worked hard on our relationship. This Sunday, I am going over to his house to spend the afternoon drinking and watching football. He’ll drink a lot of beer, I’ll drink a lot of wine, and we’ll watch more hours of football than I’ve seen in years. We won’t talk like I did with my cousin; but we will spend time together, and that’s what we need for our relationship.

And I have two astonishingly faithful correspondents. I say “astonishing” because in this day and age of email and instant messaging – while “everyone” does it, no one else has been as constant. I haven’t seen either in years, yet we do write to each other. And, in both cases, if I showed up at their doorstep tomorrow, I am sure we’d have a great conversation, and not a little food and drink. In both cases, I have watched their kids grow up, and probably know things about their kids that would embarrass their kids (such is the nature of parents, I think). But, even though very far apart geographically, emotionally we are on the same page (which is not to say we have the same values). In fact, the one friend spent her summer holiday on the Canaries with her sixteen year old daughter and said I would be welcome to join them. It was nice to hear, even though we both knew I was impossible for me to do.

I did send out a dozen Christmas cards last year; first year in ages that I sent out so many. (No, I never heard from Daughter #1.) They were very nice cards, very much keeping the Christ in Christmas. I had to laugh, though: the card to my Hungarian friend arrived before Christmas, the card to my Norwegian friend arrived in February. I didn’t need to include the traditional “this is everything that happened this year” Christmas letter, because the people I sent cards to get more than annual updates from me; and they reciprocate.

I hope my true, authentic friends are happy I am in their lives. Dunno what they get from me; but it’s apparently working. I do know I am the better for having them in my life. And, I think that’s what friends are for.

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