Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A friendship evolved

Every so often people touch your lives in such profound ways that you're at a loss for words, and sitting in your office with tears streaming down your face. I, oddly enough, was the one speechless earlier today. To appreciate why this gets an entry on this blog I have to back up... to 1991 (don't worry it jumps ahead very quickly).

I was 12 or 13 and fully immersed in Boy Scouts before it was a political cause du jour and actually taught life skills. I don't mean knot tying and first aid (although both have come in handy over the years). I mean the learning to be a teacher and a learner, civic responsibility and constancy of purpose. Only 2% of all scouts ever make it to Eagle Scout, but that's besides the point. I stayed in through age 18 and my brother followed suit with many of his friends. One was Tim Foster and boy oh boy did I not like Tim. He was 4 years younger than me and a pain in my ass. He didn't listen for shit. He didn't do what he was supposed to. What's worse is that he was friends with my brother. So he was at scouts and at our house and just wouldn't go away

Over the years he calmed down just enough to be tolerable and I usually would tell his father, "Steve, your son is an idiot." He'd laugh and blow cheap cigar smoke at me. He was a different kind of asshole than his son - the good kind. As I got older and migrated more toward hanging with the adults, ignoring Tim got easier.

I'm exaggerating just to make Tim the ass-end of the joke because that's fun for me. The truth is that he was an irritant when we were younger and his father was one of the best guys I knew. But 4 years apart in age meant that Tim and I wouldn't speak for many years, as our lives had no overlap. Our relationship evolved.

Then came maturity and social media. Tim and my brother didn't stay as close over the years as they evolved into different men with different hobbies - no harm, no foul. Tim and I seemed to have more in common. Subsequently, we became friendlier than ever before. Our relationship evolved.

One day, he was arguing the jackass side of Occupy Wall Street and I, the other side. Amidst the fray stepped in a beautiful (and brilliant) arguer and my life would be changed forever. That arguer was my bride-to-be, Linda. I suspect that while you all know the story, you were not all aware it was Tim as the connection point. He vetted each of us to the other and became part of my life story. Our relationship evolved.

Since moving back home, Tim got engaged to Theresa and I got engaged to Linda and we see each other as regularly as we did when we had scout meetings, sans neckerchief and highwater olive drab green pants these days. He asked me to be in his wedding party for his forthcoming wedding and he in mine. Our relationship evolved.

Now, somewhere along the way in the long and winding road of life 9/11 happened and you are all well acquainted with me and my tale of that event, as well as my family's. This year I've been raising money to support the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers organization. From their website "The mission of our Foundation is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller who laid down his life to save others on September 11, 2001. We also honor our military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country."Based on my life experiences during 9/11 and after as part of the military, I had to do something. Finding some good and helping others in all of this was also a way to beat those demons into submission.

What does that have to do with anything? Today, in a grand gesture of friendship and selflessness, Tim and Theresa made a donation in lieu of wedding favors for their guests. In full disclosure, earlier this summer they told me they were planning to do this, but that's all I knew. Even planning my own wedding, I don't know what wedding favors cost. Everyone at my wedding is getting a choice between a kazoo and the rollout noisemaker horns. I expect to spend about $47.63. In all seriousness, I hadn't a clue what to expect.

I received an email from Tunnel To Towers saying I had passed the 50% mark (of the $5,000 goal) when just yesterday I was at 36%. When I saw that we were actually at 66% to goal I was blown away and impressed and, subsequently, blubbering at my desk.

A wedding is an event that the world has conditioned us to think is all about the bride and groom, in truth all about the bride. It is the day the couple gets to be selfish and think about themselves. They build the perfect day for themselves and everything else is incidental. My friends chose to take a portion of that day and make it so very much about other people.

And that's the story of how Tim Foster, the world's biggest pain in the ass kid became one of my closest, most trusted, most important friends whom I love dearly. And his bride to be, Theresa... she's pretty fantastic too. Thank you, not just for the donation, not just for the consideration, but for being the kinds of friends that have immersed yourselves in the lives of people around you to the point that all of this is possible.