I recently spent ten days with a friend I have had for more than 60 years. Frank and I entered the seminary together back in 1949. His family lived in Buffalo, N.Y., and mine in Annapolis, Md. The seminary was located in the northwest reach of Pennsylvania near the shores of Lake Erie. He was 14 and I would be the same in a matter of weeks.
Back then, religious Orders recruited possible “vocations” from Catholic grammar schools. That year the entrance class numbered 91 young boys and men – a bumper crop. Frank and I connected immediately since the majority of entrants called Boston and New York home and hung together.
Our friendship deepened over the years. We both flunked Latin the first year and became “repeaters,” having to do the entire year over. Thirteen years later we were ordained together, then lost contact when he was appointed to the Caribbean missions and I to teach in the seminary system.
Frank left religious life some years before I made that choice. Time happened. Each of us married, established new careers and lost touch until we reconnected via the Internet. By then, our children were grown.
Frank invited me down to Virginia for a visit. Time collapsed as soon as we saw each other at the airport. What we shared decades earlier had become memories our visit made suddenly fresh and, not surprisingly, our conversation seemed to pick up right where we left off.
A friendship like ours is precious because it has transcended time and distance and our separate growing and, like friendships should be, is based upon trust and acceptance.
The presence we shared in the formative years of our adolescence has matured and deepened and our openness with each other has become insightful and validating.
I have become close to others from those years and have still other friendships I treasure and feel fortunate in saying so. Frank, however, helps me fill the void left after the death of my twin brother.
As a therapist, I have worked with many relationships and have discovered that no one can know all the dynamics of any relationship except those who share it. There is something at its core that belongs only to them – something even they may not be able to name. That is as true of my marriage as it is of my friendship with Frank.
I cannot help but wonder how rare such relationships are – and be grateful.