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Old friends

Jun 7, 2022 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish


This past weekend, my wife and I took some time off from the demands, stresses and anxieties caused by the war in Ukraine, COVID and life in general, and attended several events that made me subsequently reflect on the importance of old friendships in our personal lives.

One of those events was the 45th wedding anniversary of a dear friend Irene that I have known since childhood. My mother and her mother immigrated together from the DP camps in Germany after World War II, and her mother was a bridesmaid at my mother’s wedding. Their friendship was passed on and continued with the succeeding generation. Our friendship has continued through the decades, despite geographical separation and the challenges and trials that adult life brings about. Irene’s husband is godfather to one of my daughters. Irene and her sister Hanya are more like extended family than just mere acquaintances.

At another event, this time the 65th birthday celebration of a mutual friend, we were fortunate to spend some time with another good friend Mike and the pillar of his life, his wife Lizzie. Mike is one of my wife Daria’s oldest friends, and mine too.. They were dance partners in a Ukrainian dancing group in Oshawa since their youth. I was introduced into that circle when I started dating my wife, and we have have been good friends ever since. Mike and I share a mutual taste for good bourbon whiskey, lengthy discussions on Ukrainian history and politics and a professional collaboration in journalism and publishing. Mike is also, incidentally, the godfather to my other daughter. The godparenting role known as “Kumstvo” is an important Ukrainian relationship that binds people together for life, and being a “Kum” or “Kuma” is as good as being a direct close relative.

We also took time to visit another of my wife Daria’s oldest friends, also named Irene, whom she has known since the early grades of elementary school. Their friendship is reflective of that popular current notion of BFF (Best Friend Forever). Daria and Irene have shared both joys and sorrows over the years, as life threw its curves and challenges on their lives. Throughout all those decades, their friendship has stood the test of time. I should add that we also share a “Kumstvo” relationship, as I am godfather to Irene’s oldest daughter.

I must admit that I have not formed many of what l would call close long-term friendships over the course of my life. I of course, am not lacking in friends and acquaintances, but there are only a handful of people with whom I can say that I share a deeper personal bond, people with whom I can emotionally, spiritually and intellectually synchronize, people with whom I am consistently comfortable and enjoy being with. One such person was Don, with whom I became acquainted in high school, and who regrettably and tragically passed away some years ago of brain cancer. Though our lives often diverged over the course of time, whenever we reconnected, even after an absence of years, we always picked up where we left off, pleased to resume and reinforce a natural friendship that was a true blessing in my life.

A variation on this theme, was a fortunate coincidence several years ago when I managed to reconnect with a remarkable lady named Uta who I dated briefly way back in my teenage years in high school.

We both went our separate ways after high school and only reconnected more than fifty years later, and yet within a short space of time, she and her affable husband Rick became a valued part of my friends and family circle. I think that somewhere in the fabric of the universe there is a special friendship gravitational force that draws certain people together, and I am grateful for it.

Having true close friends is a blessing indeed. Often, those ties of friendship are stronger than even family relationships. From personal experience, I have seen that many families, for whatever reason, can become dysfunctional. Brothers and sisters become estranged or alienated from each other. Family members at best tolerate each other but can’t seem to connect with each other in a loving or understanding manner.

I think part of the issue is the fact that you don’t get to choose your family, but you certainly choose who your friends are. And if you are lucky enough to find even a small handful of individuals with whom you can unreservedly share your thoughts and feelings, people who you can trust unquestioningly and who enrich your life enormously by their presence, then you are blessed beyond measure.

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