A long-time friend died of cancer this morning after fighting it for five years. By “long-time friend” I mean that he was a friend — a close friend — for many years, but not in later years.
I admit that I began to think of him as something less than a friend when our political differences emerged in the 1990s. I was then becoming overtly conservative, whereas he remained as “liberal” as ever.
It isn’t to my credit that my feelings of friendship toward him dwindled because of our political differences, whereas he seemed not to let them affect his friendship for me. (It’s not just “liberals” who let political differences affect their feelings toward others, though many of them do — as I’ve seen first-hand.)
Our friendship began in 1970, when we worked together on project: he as a civil servant, me as an outside analyst. From that beginning grew a friendship that included our wives. My wife became as much a friend to him as I had ever been, and their friendship was unaffected by political differences because they had none.
We frequently saw each other as couples until the early 2000s, when they moved to Colorado and we moved to Texas. After that we visited each other every year or two. But even after we moved to different parts of the country, my wife communicated regularly with him and his wife. I didn’t.
As he withered physically he reached out more frequently to my wife, mainly through text messages. This went on until he came to the end-stage of his illness a few weeks ago. And then silence ensued.
I was (and am) grateful that my wife remained close to him. Their continued friendship surely helped him to endure his last years and months more happily than would have been the case if she had shut him out.
Here, I will give myself some credit because I had never told her about my changed feelings toward him, nor the reason for the change. And I never will. He will always be our beloved friend of 50 years.