I remember well my first meeting with my friend. At the time, I was president of the local high schools dads club. We raised all kinds of money for various projects, including lights for the football and soccer field. It involved me getting to know the parents whose children played on the schools various athletic teams. I enjoyed getting to know so many people, and it also gave me the opportunity to spend time at the high school with various faculty members.
But my friend stood out above the rest as far as I was concerned. He was a terrific person and never seemed to be without a smile. I always enjoyed our chats. He never really told me what he did, but I was later told he was a very successful businessman and quite wealthy. But I knew him as a fellow who enjoyed his children (he had three enrolled at the school) and was always willing to financially support all the athletic teams.
Time passed, and then after a hiatus of a few years I saw my friend again at a local coffee spot. There he was with his new wife, and the two of us talked about all kinds of things, including how our kids were and what they were doing with their lives. It was all fun and from that time on we stayed in touch sporadically. My friend was one of those people who comes into your life and when you talk to each other again its almost as though you had been talking and seeing each other every day.
Then about two years ago, someone called to tell me that my friend was suffering from Alzheimers and wasnt doing well. I arranged to have lunch with him a few times and because of our friendship, with or without Alzheimers, we were able to communicate. But as things stand now, my friend is not doing well at all, although his family is hopeful his health will hold out and that their dearly beloved father and husband lives out his life with some semblance of dignity.
One day after I had visited my friend, his wife called to tell me that I was one of the few friends who still visited her husband. I couldnt believe it. Here was a guy who had helped so many people with their careers. He had generously given his time, energy and money to so many causes over the years. And now, because of his circumstances many of the very people who should be standing with him and helping him have literally deserted him.
What does that say about any of us? What does that say about being what is loosely termed a friend? At a time when someone needs others for support, when someone needs the touch and hug of a friend, where have all those people gone?
Unfortunately, this is a story that I hear all too often and when I hear of others who have experienced the same type of desertion by friends, Im angered at the selfishness and lack of integrity that seems to prevail in our society today.
It isnt limited to delinquent friends who have walked away. Ive heard of family members who have deserted their loved ones and stowed them in a not-so-nice nursing home. There are explanations and excuses, of course, for that kind of thing but the fact that we desert old friends and family members and go off forgetting the support and love we received from them is simply tragic.
I assume a lot of people feel uncomfortable when dealing with someone who isnt all there. But, you know, just maybe that is the time when a family member or friend needs you most. The effort could be as simple as picking up a telephone and dialing a number.