Sympatheia

“We should call Dan,” my husband Eric says as he sits down beside me. “We’ve talked about it, but we haven’t done it. If we don’t, we’re gonna lose him forever.”

Stark those words, and true, the consequences are clear: either we make this overture, or we will have to let Dan go; he’ll become one of those people we used to know. The actuality of it makes me feel sick. Dan has been a part of my life, albeit an intermittent o since I was a college junior and dating one of his best friends—that’s almost 50 years. Eric has known him for longer sharing youth, hometown, friends, and a raft of anecdotes.

Dan was at our son’s bris, comforted me in the kitchen when the reality of what was happening in the living room assailed. He brought his charm, warm blue eyes, genuine interest, and soft touch to that event as he did to so many others. I was there when he returned to town to bury his mom.

We knew him through serious relationships, and he knew us from the beginning of ours—two friends of his who found each other in their thirties and married. When my husband-to-be told Dan that he was getting married, Dan said, “Really…to who?”

“Trish, you know her.”

“You can’t marry her. She’s always been my girl.”

No we were never a couple, but we grew up knowing each other, sharing houses and places, Thanksgivings and Christmases, triumphs and setbacks. One afternoon we went tubing on the Ichitucknee Springs, my boyfriend didn’t want to go, but as usual, Dan was game, seamlessly endearing himself to my work friends. As the sun warmed us, and the cold clear water bore us gently along, a manatee lifted his head beneath the arm I was dangling in the water. Startling, magical. We have shared moments like that, too numerous to mention.

When he moved to Asheville, he invited us repeatedly to visit, and we vowed we would. As Eric quipped yesterday, “Hey, Dan, what are promises if they can’t be broken?” Of course that was at the heart of it. Dan would return almost every fall to visit his brothers in Jersey. He’d come for dinner with mutual friends or alone, and the nights would unspool in threads of story and laughter; I was usually the first to leave the table, the sounds of friendship drifting upstairs, my lullaby.

We left New Jersey in a whirlwind of activity: fast house sale, quick packing, and Westward Ho! No backward glance. The glances, though they have been few, came later. Looming in the rearview for us was Dan and the lack of goodbye…our broken promise, and a history we held.

Yesterday we reconnected, and today my email from the Daily Stoic talks about the importance of sympatheia:

the idea that “all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other.”

It clarifies that even though Stoics espouse the value of independence and strength, this does not mean that we should be isolated. We need friends, “We are made better by caring and being cared for.” This wisdom comes at the right time. It reminds me how lucky we are in the lives we share with others.

Before we end the call, Dan says, “Now we’re in touch. Let’s keep it that way.”  He mentions that he and his longtime girlfriend have been thinking about a trip driving up the coast highway, our coast.

No promises, just possibilities—more than enough for me.

4 thoughts on “Sympatheia”

  1. This post has me thinking. I am a serious introvert and find maintaining those affinities difficult. I am rarely the one to call. Maybe I should stretch myself a little and do it more often.

  2. Your relationship with Dan is strong and gentle – a great combination. It’s far too easy to lose track of good friends, and you have inspired me to reach out today to a close friend who lives far away.

  3. Reconnecting in wonderful. A couple of years ago we reconnected we friends we haven’t seen in 30 years. If fact it was the person who introduced us. Now we make it a point to meet for lunch once a month. It was like the time of not seeing each other never was because we picked up right where we left off. Glad you, your husband, and Dan reconnected and not become used to knows.

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