Friendship in the Age of Social Media

 Friendship, today that word seems to have taken on a new meaning. We have “friends” on Facebook, we are connected through Twitter and Instagram, I have followers of this blog as well as followers on the other social media platforms, yet, are they friends? Friends in the true sense of the word, the classic dictionary definition:

A person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance. A person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe; ally. A supporter or sympathizer. Something thought of as like a friend in being helpful, reliable, etc.

 When I read the definition, I cannot say that I have many “true” friends on social media, while some are real in the classical sense of being a friend, most are acquaintances, people I have known in various stages of my life, but not close, not intimate. I could not share my inner thoughts with many, I could not share my own struggles and doubts, and recently I cannot even share my own political views. 

 I began really thinking about friendship after going out last evening with two of my oldest and dearest friends, Bill and Bob. It was Bob, Bill, Mike, Ted and I who formed the our small but close group. Our friendships began long ago when we were in high school at a time of peer pressure, the desire to conform, yet to also rebel, a time when one is trying to figure out the confusing signals that come with teenage angst. Bob, I have known since the third grade and he came into my life at a time when I was having difficulties in adjusting to a new school, new people, and also the lingering effects of tragedy at home. Our third grade teacher was, to put it mildly, was my Gorgon. In my imagination she was evil, a witch, a dark shadow that over whelmed all that I tried to do. Going to school then was my journey into Mordor and I was the Hobbit just trying to survive by keeping my head down. It was during this turbulent time that Bob and I became friends, hanging around together, going to each other’s homes and generally being boys. Mike, I would meet in our Freshman year at Framingham South as part of the Class of ‘69. He was one of five boys and his dad was a career Navy man so it was his mom who ruled their home. Mike and I would get together at his home after school, watch Dark Shadows and consume several cans of Hi-C fruit drinks. It wasn’t long after that when Bob, Mike and yours truly began hanging out together and by the time we reached our Junior year, Bill and Ted became part of our crew.

 Throughout the years we have all grown, Mike, Bob and I, all joined the Army together after we graduated in 1969. After basic we went our separate ways, with Mike and I ending up in Vietnam and Bob being stationed in Alaska. Bill and Ted went to college, where we lost contact with Ted, but the four of us remained close. We shared our joys, our struggles, our lives with each other. Even as we moved along, getting married, having kids, choosing our vocations, we remained close.

 There are so many stories to be told about our friendship, some funny, some sad, but all of them born out of our deep affection for one another. Now as we grow older, move into new phases of being grandparents and re-defining our lives, our friendship shows little or no sign of going away. Sure, distance, family and life do get in the way, yet, each of us knows that when called upon we can be assured that they will be there to support, give comfort and be that friendly ear.

 As I sit here and write, I feel a sense of loss in these deep friendships. With the advent of social media, and the accumulation of acquaintances rather than friends, I feel a deep sense of loss. Most of my Facebook “friends” are good folks, I like them but I could never share with them on the same level as I do with those four. Being an introvert and never one to put myself out there just to have friends, I find the whole thing, depressing. 

 Is it a part of the aging process? I don’t think so, having time alone, to read, write and be in that blissful state of solitude has its own reward. I also have that most beautiful of friendships with my partner and spouse, someone I can be me with, who knows my many foibles, yet, still loves me as I love her. 

What Tale do I Tell?

What tale am I to tell? 

Where does my story begin?

Where will it all end?

I look about and see poetry

in the trees as the wind blows through the leaves

in the songs of the birds nesting in the branches.

There is poetry in the love I share

in the tears I shed

in my own imperfections.

I look up at the clouds scudding across the sky

changing shape molded by unseen hands

creating a story that is timeless.

I am such a small part of the greater whole

seeking to discover that one great purpose

writing these bits and pieces of poetry

hoping to see in the words a reflection of my soul.

Perfection is a dream, a fantasy of youth

these words are imperfect as is the language.

It can never describe those deeper feelings

that lie at the core of my being,

a being fraught with fear and anxiety

of knowing I am not enough on my own.

What tale do I tell? 

What mystery lies at the root of my heart?

The roads I have travelled were never straight

winding through a landscape at once beautiful and terrible.

Through the gauntlet of people and places

faces haunting the edges of my memory

now I stand on the precipice of the future

as I stare out across a valley shrouded in fog

wondering where my story will take me.

Time grows shorter with each passing year

I now have arrived at a point where there are less tomorrow’s

and I can no longer sit idly 

as that enemy time, 

gnaws me down into dust.

All is sacred, all is holy, if I dare to look outward

fear is the cage created to justify our own failures

and I have failed and fallen so may times

yet, like the Phoenix I have risen from the ashes

to stand before the judgement seat of the Holy

the mystery of unconditional love

that calls us out of our tombs

unbinding our tortured souls

and bathing us in the light of truth.

The Child That Never Was

I could see it in her eyes

the memory of that day

as she lay in bed waiting

a doctor,

a nurse

she knew it wasn’t good.

The child died

it was that simple

the life carried within

was no longer.

She yearned to touch

to hold, to see

that which she had felt

all those months

even now

her arms ache to hold

that child she never saw.

The years go on

time does not always heal,

the small casket buried

holding her heart.

Rehab Visit

March winds blow cold,

dirty snowbanks along the road

more ice than snow,

as I walk into the rehab

entering into that shadow world

that place between life and death.

A row of occupied wheelchairs

greets me as I walk the halls

wondering why they are all women,

staring at me as I walk by

some with a yearning look

others showing no emotion

their heads bent down, eyes closed

as if they have already surrendered

looking into the depths of their tomb,

I shudder walking by these living dead

then I walk into his room

the old man who smiles a toothless smile

who still lives into the moment

teaching all that life is to be lived,

that love never truly dies

even as the sun begins to set.

In this little corner the sun shines

and he is grateful for the little he has

as I sit and listen to his stories

praying silently that I have his courage

when I will one day be sitting in his seat

ready to face the dark with dignity and grace.

Sunday Evening Call

I make my Sunday evening call

to my mother,

being the dutiful son

and each week we talk

about the same thing,

how time goes by

not just goes by

but flys

in the blink of an eye.

She reminisces about dad

now ten years gone

about a marriage 

that would have been diamond

had he not left our world

but now all she has are memories

as she stares down her waning years

so I just listen to her

talk about dad and her,

about missing her great-grandkids

wishing we could live closer,

and as she rambles on

I wonder how I will be

when I reach that age

wondering the same,

as time flys by

leaving me only with memories

fading in the evening light.

Writing from the Heart

The sky shimmers

masking the shadow

that lies on the heart.

The earth feels solid

as I walk along the path

yet, a chasm opens

seeking to draw me down

into the depths.

It seems so long ago

that I took that step

to discover myself

as I began to write

began to explore deeply

those feelings 

that lie just below the crust

breaking out in midnight tears

wraiths weaving their threads

entwining themselves 

in and through my life.

Each day I use words

discovering hidden myths

as I scrape the surface

ever searching for truth

buried under layers of life

where lies and deceit take root

choking out the dream.

I know I’m not as clever

in the words that I use,

and there are moments

when I can’t write what I see.

But age and nature conspire

and I have only a short time

to put out into poorly written verses

that which lies heavy on the heart.

To write is to be free

to envision paradise reborn

in the moments of my life.