I was born into a family who lived on the outside. We were not part of the main culture. We did not follow their customs or traditions. We did not celebrate their holidays. What was perfectly normal for us was an oddity to our neighbors. Our family tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. We made a special effort to be friendly, polite, law-abiding. My brother and I were encouraged, cajoled, pressured, to do well in school. We did not know too many others like us except for extended family, and they did not live very close.
I was the only one like me in my class throughout my lower school years but late into secondary school, I met a few other boys about my age. Had we met in a place where everyone was like us, we probably wouldn’t have chosen each other. Personality-wise, we were nothing alike, but by this shared odd circumstance, being three of a kind in a sea of others, we became bonded.
These boys remained my dear friends all through my life, even after we discovered larger communities of our people, and tapped into its business network. Ever after we didn’t need each other anymore. Despite our differences, we remained close.
We forgave each other sins that would rend other relationships asunder. We trusted each other with secrets nobody else in the world knew, not even our wives. We were brothers. It was understood that if something should happen to one of us, the others would take care of his family. We were responsible for and to each other. We shared a storied history.
We didn’t discuss or analyze the nature of our friendship. We all understood it the same way. There was nothing to discuss. We knew what had to be done. We knew what had to be said. And we knew when to do and say nothing.
I sometimes I forgot how much they meant to me. Sometimes, I took them for granted. Sometimes I needed time away from one or the other one because he exasperated me so. Sometimes, there was anger, and it seemed as if the friendship might be over, but none of us felt quite whole without the others, and so somebody would apologize. They would make the effort to reconcile. They would recognize their own fault in it. They would take responsibility for it. And in this way, we grew as men.
It was only after they were both gone that I truly understood how important they’d been to my life. I didn’t survive them by very long. We were all old men when we died. But that short while of living without them was spent in the contemplation of their friendship, and its importance to all of us. How blessed I felt to have known these simple men.
Now we are together again and always will be, in some form or another.
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photo credit: Simon Garnier http://www.simongarnier.org/three-friends/