Sunday, January 25, 2009
Three of my best friends are named Bill. There is Bill K., my partner of 45 years and “best friend” (even though he’s not speaking to me now because of a near accident we almost had a couple of days ago.)
Another Bill, is my long time friend (since grade school), Bill B. We became close when we played in the marching band (he the bass drum and me the Sousaphone.) Either Bill or I would save a seat for each other on the band bus for the away football games. After graduation Bill B. and I gradually grew apart and didn’t become close again until we met at our 25th class reunion.
The third Bill, is Bill P. I met Bill P. when I began working at Girard Bank in Philadelphia in 1965. In a few years he was my boss for the next 20 years until I left the bank in a corporate reorganization. Bill P. and I went out to lunch almost every day when we worked together.
Over the years I’ve remained in contact with both Bill B. from my childhood and Bill P. from my workplace. I lived with with Bill K., so he was the one constant. Both Bill B. and Bill P. have met Bill K. They all like one another. However, Bill B. and Bill P. have never met one another. Yesterday morning I corrected that life history anomaly.
I stay in contact with both other Bill’s through e-mail and by phone. Bill B. lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania and Bill P. lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yesterday I called Bill K. on the phone. I wanted to tease him about the outcome of the presidential election. Both Bill P. and Bill B. are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me. They’re conservative Republicans and I am a liberal Democrat. Even so, we’re good friends. Birds of a feather or something like that. Anyway, while talking to Bill P. I thought “Why not have a three-way phone conversation and call Bill B. so I could introduce these two good friends of mine from different phases of my life?” I called Bill B. His wife told me he was in the shower. I asked her if she could call him to the phone dripping wet and all that (employing a little friendly humor which I don’t think she appreciated.) She advised me to call in about 10 minutes.
I continued to talk to Bill P. (as good friends we never run out of things to talk about), until the 10 minutes were up. I called Bill B. with Bill P. on the line. Bill B. came on the line and I asked him if he would like to meet my other “Bill” friend. He said “Sure!” I hit the Flash button on my phone and thus connected the two separate parts of my life that were heretofore unconnected. As I knew it would happen, both Bill’s got along fine. Both are football fans (Bill P. the Steelers and Bill B. the Eagles). Our three way conversation continued for about 15 minutes until Bill B. had to leave to attend Saturday morning chores.
I’ve often thought about the different friends that I’ve made in the different phases of my life and would it be nice if they knew one another. With the two Bill’s yesterday, it is amazing how similar they are in their personalities. Both are witty have a wicked dry sense of humor. Both are very private (unlike me.) Both are smart as a whip and very hard workers. Both married well and have wonderful wives (who I also like a lot.) Both have raised children who love and adore them and remain close to them even in their adulthood. I’m glad I was able to finally complete the circle yesterday and introduce them to one another, even if it was only over the phone.
Over the years I’ve often wondered what we had in common. They’re straight, I’m gay. Their conservative, I’m liberal. They have a four year college degree and I have a two year associate’s degree. They have children, I don’t. Perhaps the main thing we have in common is our realistic view on life and its absurdities. Even though we’re looking at life through opposite ends of the political spectrum, we can still mock the hypocrisy and phoniness that we see all about us. Perhaps our friendship is defined by that factor that defines all true friendships and that is the fact that they accept me as I am; flaws and all as I do them.
Have we had our differences over the years? Absolutely! But our friendship has always remained intact. And the reason for that is I like these guys. They both have a heart of gold and I will always treasure their friendship. If I should die tomorrow, I will go to my grave knowing that I was fortunate in having lifelong friends such as these two Bills.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other good friends. I read or heard somewhere that one can consider themselves lucky if they go through life with good friends that they can count on one hand. I’m very lucky. I can count my good friends on two hands. In a future posting I’ll tell the story of my friends Larry, Stuart, Don, Bob, Bob, Bob and Bob. Yes, there are a lot of Bob’s.
Lately, I’ve spiced up my list of friends with a Wayne, Doug and Harvey. I have had an interesting life. It would make a good mini-series. Actually, we all have interesting lives. I’m fortunate that I am at the age now (some of my friends didn’t make it – Sal, Alice, and Ron) that I can look back and reflect. For that I am thankful. It's been a good journey.