Me (3rd from left) and my friends (from left to right) Billy, Pee Wee, Me, Chubby and my brother Isaac at 120 Washington Avenue in Downingtown, PA 1951
My longtime good friend Larry recently wrote a blog posting about how difficult it is for him to make friends. He said he has had this difficulty since childhood. He places most of the blame on his parents for being an only child and living in the county during his early childhood. He said he had no kids his age during that period of his life to form the basis of developing friendships. He believes this has affected him his whole life and is basically the reason for his lifelong shyness.
I met Larry when I was in third grade and was perhaps his best friend. We remained good friends until his family moved (again) right before we were to enter ninth grade in high school. I remember to this day how traumatic the impending loss of his friendship was as I was about to begin junior high (now middle) school.
We maintained a long distance friendship but it was never like it was when we lived on the same street (Washington Avenue) in Downingtown trading comic books and going out Friday and Saturday night bowling and looking for dances to meet girls.
I could write a book on friendships and friends I've had and lost (and probably will if I live long enough) but suffice it for me to say I've never had trouble making friends.
Maybe that was because I grew up with two younger brothers. Ironically I wasn't particularly friendly with my two younger brothers even though we are all only a year apart. My brothers John and Isaac were a tag team against their older brother. They were pals with each other. I was the Older Brother. I had my own friends and couldn't be bothered with my little brothers. Sounds brutal but it was true. Another irony, my brothers and I are good friends now.
Me and my brothers after weeding Pop's corn - 1950 (I'm in the middle)
Growing up as a "townie" I always had friends just outside the door of the apartment house we lived in on Washington Avenue. "Chubby" (real name Dayton Shores) was my best buddy on Washington Avenue.
In grade school my little buddies were Billy Null, Timmy Mahan, Donald Murphy, and the aforementioned Larry Meredith.
The friends came and went. I tend to have a few really good friends (what I call "First Tier"). Then I have the Second Tier friends. They're the one that come and go. Then I have/had a lot of friends who I say "Hi!" too. I've never had a problem making friends. That's one complaint I cannot make.
In high school my best friend was probably Bill B. He's still my friend to this day even though much of his time is taken up with his family. Stuart Meisel, the only Jew in our class, was/is a good friend of mine. Even though I knew I was "different" (gay) from the young age of 4 years old, most of my friends were straight. I remember two who were probably gay (Lee Harris and Eddie Rose) but they faded out of my life after third grade. I do not know why. They just disappeared. I do remember that both of them were very effeminate. I probably didn't feel comfortable around them and that's probably why I left their friendships.
The three years I was in the Army I made many friends, some of whom I have to this day. I really enjoyed my time in the Army and would have stayed if I wasn't gay. I had lots and lots of good friends. I miss many of those guys to this day.
Ft. Devens, Mass 1960 - my friends Bill Allen (seated on the left), me (seated on the right)
Bob McCamlety (to the left in the back and who I am having lunch with today), and Bill Egan (to the right in the back). The only one I maintained a friendship with is Bob McCamley. Bill Allen and Dick Egan and I parted ways after school at Ft. Devens. I don't know what happened to them.
To this day I don't feel comfortable around swishy, effeminate men. That's probably why I have made so few gay friends where I live now, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach is the destination of may gay retirees. I have made some gay friends. They are the non swishy type. Yes, I am prejudiced. I'm not comfortable around overtly feminine men who camp it up. There is a lot of that going on at the aptly named Camp Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach Delaware.
While I'm sure there are many fine people in Camp Rehoboth and the gay community in general, I haven't been able to form lasting friendships with them for a multiple of reasons. I have long since ceased to concern myself over this fact. As they say today "It is what it is."
We all need friends. I am no exception. I am very thankful that I have a few good friends.
Today I am going to join a few of them for lunch at the La Quezalteca Mexican restaurant in Millsboro. Jack, Paul, Bob M., Jim, and Bob C. We'll catch up on our latest medical histories. We'll discuss the current political situation (we're all Dems). Of course there will be some gentle teasing as usually happens when a group of old men (gay or straight) gather.
Life is good.
Jim Donahue, Bob McCamley (they're Life Partners) and me last week) November 2010