Do you have that old friend whose pictures are still on your fridge but you haven’t talked to them in years? Do you have that old friend who every now-and-again you think about, but in the end you don’t reconnect with? Do you have that old friend on your buddies list who always seems to be logged on, but you still don’t talk to? I do.
I actually have several old friends who fit these descriptions. Growing up with my dad in the Army, I moved a lot and had to say goodbye to too many close friends. My last move was the hardest. I was in middle school when my dad retired and we moved from Virginia to Washington. Right as I was truly formulating my personality and developing close attachments to people, we had to move.
I promised myself that I was going to treat this move better; I was going to stay in touch with my friends this time. It was going to be different. And it was for a while. I kept in touch with snail mail and then e-mail. I sent Christmas cards (for the only time in my life when I was 13). I made sure to call people on their birthdays. Then suddenly – or not so suddenly, I’m not really sure – it stopped. No more letters. No more Christmas cards. No more birthday calls.
Then last year something happened. A psychopathic student went on a rampage on the Virginia Tech University campus and killed 32 people. I’ll never forget the headlines that day. It was shocking to see what happened. To me, the tragedy in Blacksburg, Va., was worse than 9/11. I know people who go to school there. I probably would have gone to school there had we stayed (that may be the scariest part). I remember scrambling to try and find a way to get in touch with people. Suddenly they weren’t online. I never got their cell phone numbers. I had to know. I had to find out if anyone I knew had been hurt. I had to know that everything was all right. My best friend from my younger days was in a classroom which was shot into. Thank God, he is all right. He got married a couple months after it happened. He thought of me, and I was invited. I wish I had gone.
We never fully appreciate the friendships we have – or the ones we lost – until the people involved are taken away. It’s easy to reflect on your past and think of friends long forgotten saying, “I should really give them a call,” or, “I wonder what he’s up to these days,” but we still never make time for them. I made that mistake before. Too many times I lost touch with the people I cared about and I nearly paid the ultimate price. Now it’s easy for me to send guys a message online or pick up the phone. And if I begin to slack off, then I’ve already promised myself that every year in April I’m going to contact someone from Virginia. I have that painful reminder that good friends are hard to come by and we can’t squander the ones who helped shape us.