How An Interview Turned Into A Friendship:
One man in particular became my best friend out of the hundreds of people whom I was interviewing. Jim and I met because I interviewed him for Chasing Time. I kept in touch with him and over time we became friends.
Whenever I spent time with Jim, it was as if I had the opportunity to go back into history, but even more than that, this elderly man became my friend. Jim’s stories transported me back to the depression years. Through other stories that he told to me, I felt like I was growing up when FDR was president. Through other stories that he recanted, I experienced the WWII years, from others, I was in the 1960’s, and so on. Jim became my best friend (“bestie” as my generation calls our best friends) out of everyone whom I was frequently interviewing for my oral history project. Jim had no living family. He did not have a single niece, nephew, cousin, anyone.
There are some things in life that just happen to happen. You just don’t know. Perhaps you never would have guessed that things played out the way that they did. When looking back, you think, “Who would have thought? Who knew?” This is how some of life’s unbelievable moments unfold. I never would have guessed that out of everyone whom I ever met and out of all of my friends, I would meet one of my very best friends in a nursing home. Who would have thought when I walked into the nursing home for that interview as I had done countless other times; I would meet one of the best friends that I ever had? At the time when I met the man who became my best friend, he was in his upper eighties.
In life, we just don’t know what moments or events will change the course of our lives. Some call it fate. Others call it destiny. That day and that interview changed my life. I met someone who I have considered to be “my person” the past eight years. He’s my friend, my rock, my person and someone’s whose friendship ended up being one of the best opportunities of my lifetime. Through a conversation, through some questions, I met someone who transformed my life. Who knew? Think about that person whom you met by chance. From meeting someone or experiencing something, the course of your life can change. When I reflect back about meeting my friend, Jim, I am left with, “Who knew?”
My Best Friend: J-I-M-M-Y
One of life’s greatest gifts to us is the friendships that we cultivate with others. We connect with certain people whom we come into contact with in our lives. As with all facets of our lives, the things in our lives that matter – matter because of the relationships that we have with others. Our relationships make things meaningful. One man in particular became my “bestie” of the G.I. generation. He became a legitimate friend of mine and as the years passed, our friendship grew stronger. We were several generations apart in age, but conversing with Jim never did get old.
There were Fridays when I had text messages from my friends to meet them at a bar for happy hour, and I would pass up those texts to go meet Jim and visit him at the nursing home where he resided. For hours, I would sit on the edge of Jim’s bed in his nursing home room as he sat in his wheelchair in front of me. Jim was a tall man, 6’ 2’’. Although since I had known him, he was confined to a wheelchair; his height came through even as he was sitting. Jim’s knowledge of past U.S. presidents, his interest in poetry, his appreciation for history, such as the Ancient Greeks, as well as his love for the game of baseball had me hooked.
Many a times, Jim read aloud poems by Henry Van Dyke to me. Sometimes I wonder how can I feel so close with someone when there was such an age difference between us? Jim will come up again and again throughout this book. I completed new interviews some weeks on a daily basis. I was collecting more and more stories from elderly people that lived through WWII. All the while, my friendship with Jim was growing stronger by the day.
I love the lyrics of Enya’s song, Only Time because it is only time that allows us to experience certain feelings and experiences. It was a typical Chicago fall afternoon when I walked into Jim’s nursing home for the first time years ago. I arrived at a nursing home to complete an interview, as I complete hundreds of interviews and from that interview, I met one of the best friends that I ever had or will have. As time passed, Jim became more than an interview, more than a story, and even more than a friend. He became someone who touched my life in a memorable way. He became someone I would never forget.
Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows?
And who can say if your love grows,
As your heart chose?
Who can say why your heart sighs,
As your love flies?
And who can say why your heart cries,
When your love lies?
When I read the Chinese proverb, “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break,” all of my moments with Jim flash in front of me. He would not be a friend that I know for years and years (simply because there were close to 70 years between us in age), but he would be a friend that I was destined to meet and just like the proverb says, “our friendship would never break.”
He would always be a part of me. Individuals with whom we come into contact get pieces of our hearts. Jim is someone who has one of the spots in my heart. I will never be the same after having met Jim. In the span of my entire life, perhaps we would be friends for what seemed like a moment in time (eight years), but what a precious moment our friendship will always be to me.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” – Flavia Weedn