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About those friends

     Friends—they come in all shapes and sizes, kind'a like the cereal boxes I was talking about earlier. Friends come tall and short, skinny and plump. They come with light hair and dark hair, smiling faces, grumpy faces, young and old—middle-aged, too. Can't forget you guys. Organized and scatter-brained. Serious and fun-loving. Helpful—some friends almost have halos!—and needing help, so you can earn a halo of your own. Beards and no beards. Coiffed hairdo's and shaved heads. What a world!

     Some friends have tattoos; some friends don't. A newly-made friend at the Y is covered with them—a virtual tattoo museum, a family gallery. Tattoos of the Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart, his grandmother, mother, wife and little daughter. Stories to be told; tattoos to remember and share his family.

     Donut shop owners make good friends. Family makes good friends. People who share the pew with you at church make good friends. 

     Friends are everywhere—next door, across town, in your car, in the place you grew up, at the gas station. They're hard to keep sometimes, like if they live far away or they disagree with you on politics or they're social busybodies with little time for an old friend—unless, of course, it's you. Some friends come and go but stay in your memory; others stick by for years, decades, never let you go. Not that you want to!

     Friends come in all degrees of closeness. Some you can call at six in the evening, "I'm bored. Want to meet for coffee?"  And they'll say, "Sure! Where?" Others will come to all of your parties, if you're a party-giving sort of person. The closest friends will listen to your woes and—I didn't say this—complaints about other friends or family, and not say a word to anyone and even better, give you helpful advice that really works, the times you actually follow it. Never underestimate the value of a friend's advice!

     Some friends—a few—you can discuss politics with. Kind'a touchy these days, but it's good to be able to speak freely without being jumped on. And good to keep quiet when it's the better choice.

     Some friends are passing friends, for the few minutes you're standing in line at the store, exchanging comments about the day or the latest news or why they're buying what they're buying. You might never see them again, but for those few minutes, they're your friend. What's surprising is how long you remember them and the friendly conversation you had.

     Relatives living far away whom you love but don't hear from often enough are special friends—you scold yourself for not e-mailing them when you've been meaning to for ages. Friends are people who hosted your book signing and keep in touch for years afterward. E-mail is a friend-saver in so many ways, as is texting. Friends are people you went to grade school or high school with and reconnect with years later, then stay in touch with.

     Next door friends are the easiest to keeping in touch with. Just walk outside, look to your left, look to your right, wave to the guy across the street, stop to chat with your neighbor to your right. Wave as you drive off on your way to the donut shop. No excuse for not staying in touch with neighbors.

     Well, I don't know what else to say about friends, but I think we forget how many we have and how valuable they are to us and how we expect too much of them at times. They're only human. Like us.

     Thank you for being my friend.

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