This friend of mine was significantly older than me - old enough to be my grandfather, actually - but he was just one of those people that I got that feeling about. There are several of you (you, who read this blog, even) I have felt this way about, and it's difficult to describe. It's a feeling of "I need to get to know you. I don't know if I'm supposed to know you, or if you're supposed to know me, or if we're supposed to know each other, but this is supposed to happen." I rarely tell people about this feeling, but at this point, I trust it. It never, ever leads me astray. Lucky for me, he got the same feeling, and we were able to share this with one another. In fact, we shared quite a lot with one another--not only did he read my blog, but I also read his, and we shared letters--long, long letters -- with one another over a span of more than a year. I just searched my inbox with his name, and I don't even know how many letters there are. I can't read them right now. I will. And I'm saving them, for sure. But I'll read them later.
I do remember, though, an exchange in some of our emails in which he stated, "I think I would like to adopt you, okay?" I was going through an incredibly difficult time, and was feeling not only alone, but entirely unlovable. "I am 100% okay with being adopted by you," I responded. "Consider yourself adopted," he wrote. And I did. I was. I know for a fact that he treated everyone this way--his love seemed boundless--but he also made me feel important. And loved. And worthy. I could be honest, too, in those letters. He was a man with a story (which he was telling, here, and you should read), and we shared a deep belief in the importance and value of storying our lives. I listened. He listened. We shouldn't have had anything in common, and we knew it. And yet, I have an inbox full of letters. Sometimes, you just love anyway.
He commented on my Facebook page with such regularity, I actually had a friend ask me, "who is this old dude who comments on everything you say?"
"He's a friend of mine," I said, laughing. "He's fantastic."
"He's not a creeper?"
"Thanks for looking out for me," I said, "but no worries here. Not a creeper at all."
Hugs were the other thing we shared. I gave him big, long hugs because...well just because. Because he told me hugs were special, and not something to be taken lightly. Because he loved them. Because he needed them. And deserved them. Because I needed them. Because, when I looked into his eyes, I saw things I have never seen in anyone else's that made it so I just wanted to hug him. A big, long hug. Because when I gave him a hug after church, he would write me a thank you e-mail. Because I loved getting e-mails.
After I passed my dissertation defense, I went to an event at church. I was on the phone with my sister in the parking lot prior to walking in to the building, and he came over to me, so excited to give me a congratulatory hug that he completely missed the fact that I was on the phone and hugged me such that I very nearly dropped the phone. It's an amazing thing to have someone that honestly and genuinely excited for you. (I got an email after that asking me to apologize to my sister for interrupting the phone call. I never apologized and told him so. The hug was worth it).
To my friend: thank you. Thank you for reminding me of what was good and beautiful in me at a time when I could not see it myself. Thank you for letting me be there for you, as young and immature as I am, and for reminding me that I have something to offer. Thank you for trusting me, and for "adopting" me, and for sharing your soul. I consider myself to be so incredibly blessed.
My friend sent me this song (which I downloaded onto my ipod soon after) when I was going through a particularly difficult patch of time. There were days this song was on repeat in my head all day. In our emails, we talked a good deal about Buddhism, and mindfulness, and acceptance, and living in the moment. (Warning: even if you did not know him, this song will likely make you cry. At least, that's what it has always done to me).