Johnny I hardly knew ye….
Getting older has some advantages and disadvantages.
One big advantage is you become a repository of experience and knowledge – both good and bad. As we age it seems the bad experiences are buried; suppressed according to psychologists. That’s understandable. Who wants to be constantly reminded of a bad experience? Not yours truly.
Bad knowledge? Well, I suppose that’s like knowing how to wreck a car or sink a fishing boat or the consequences of not having the safety set on a firearm. By having such knowledge we know what not to do. Bad knowledge is useful if you look at it this way. And definitely not something we want to suppress or ignore when appropriate.
Older people have a lot of memories. The trick is not living in those memories all the time. I find this a bigger challenge as I get older. “Why when I was a boy…” is a phrase that makes my wife Dixie shutter and give me an evil stare. That’s probably why I use it from time to time. It gets her riled up and that’s sorta’ fun, if you know what I mean. But if it becomes repetitive them I’m guessing I’ve got a problem.
Here’s one of the biggest disadvantages of aging: Your friends start dying on you. The older you get the more funerals you attend. The more memories swell up inside about that person. The more tears you shed.
To me this is one of the toughest parts of getting older. It’s not just the funeral homes and funerals, but the systematic realization that as well as you thought you knew the deceased you discover you really didn’t know them that well. How does this happen? It’s those damn videos (with the requisite background music) our slide shows we are subjected to at the funeral home. See one of those and you realize how little you really knew about someone who you consider a real, true, close friend.
I went to a funeral home for a good friend just a week ago. I greeted his family who I considered very close to me. We talked and smiled and reminisced about the departed friend – husband – father. It felt warm and sad, all at the same time. Then realizing I was holding up the reception line, if bid the family well and slipped off to the side. To where the slide show was being perpetually played.
I watched the slides advance and with each one I began to realize that my friend had a life that was far more expansive than I realized. He was in an Army uniform, on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, in an old wooden boat, vacationing in London, eating something unrecognizable at Disneyland. Hell, I had no idea.
If this sort of “realization” occurred only occasionally I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but every time I did a funeral home there it was. “Johnny I hardly knew ye…..”
So we have 2 choices: 1) Just figure this is the way it is and will be, or 2) Do something to change this situation before another friend bites the dust. I chose number 2.
Since making that choice I now spend time with my friends exploring their life that is blank for me and asking lots of questions. Examples are:
“How did you get into fishing?”
“Tell me about what it was like growing up from when you were in the first grade through high school.”
“Did you start hunting when you were young or was that something you did after you were an adult?”
“What was your first girlfriend like?”
“ What was the very best vacation you ever went on”
“How many boats have you had and what were they like?”
“Who were your role models after you got out of school and started working?”
“Was there any event that you felt reshaped your life?”
“What were your parents like when you were growing up?”
“Do you (did you) have a favorite aunt or uncle and what made that person special?”
“What did you and your brothers/sisters/friends do for fun during high school?”
And on and on and on………..
My wife says I need to be careful I don’t “drive my friends away”, but I respectfully disagree. I don’t machine-gun these questions. I drop them from time to time, always careful not to be disrespectful or too nosey. But I really want to know. I really want to be a great friend. I want this person to know how much I care. How much I love them. So I believe the more I know the better I can understand them. The better I can be a real, true friend. The less likely I am to find myself thinking “Johnny I hardly knew ye….”
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