No, not a post about a group of slightly irritating, American adults that drink copious amounts of coffee.  No, this is just going to be a short piece about our friends and what we consider to make a person a ‘friend’ or even what they may believe makes us a friend.  For me, a friend is a rare commodity and one that should be cherished.  Unfortunately, I have lost too many friends whilst they were serving on operations and they were all far too young to die.  However, I do have a couple left and even some that don’t try and avoid me!

But what makes a friend?  I have known many people throughout my life and career yet very few of them became true friends.  Of course I was friendly with them (some more so than others 😉 ) but does someone become a true friend, you know, someone that sneaks their way into your emotions to the point you even remember their birthdays (sometimes).  I suppose it’s a bit like getting a girlfriend; one that lasts more than a few months.  But then again, I was never really very good with girls.  I’m not suggesting I was good with men, either!  So there must be something there that forms that bond.

Being part of the Army for so long, I developed a bond with my colleagues at work.  You have to.  These are the people you may be entrusting with your lives, so an understanding is created.  It even applied to the idiots you wouldn’t mind being run over by a bus, but there are so few incidents of bus running overs nowadays.  Maybe they should make buses faster?  I digress.  As usual.  No surprise there.

Right.  Army.  Colleagues.  Kinship.  Buses.  Nope, forget the buses, lets concentrate on the matter at hand.  How does one become a friend?

I remember an incident involving a colleague of mine back in 1990.  We were driving to my house and he asked me why my wife called me ‘James’ and everyone else called me ‘Jim’.  I replied, without thinking (another surprise there!) that my true friends and family call me James.  My work colleagues or people I have just met called me Jim.  To which, he turned to me and asked why he didn’t call me James and without thinking I said because you are not a true friend.  That’s a quality I have.  I open my mouth without thinking and the words that come out usually get me in trouble.  In this case, my colleague was very offended and never forgot it, even though we worked with each other, on and off, for a further twenty odd years.

So, I understand how you can easily offend people so that they will never become friends.  Not exactly a skill to be proud of!!

For me, finding a good friend has never been a case of being actually friendly with the person.  One of my best friends has never heard a nice word from me.  I have insulted him in one way or another since the day we met and I still manage to squeeze a few insults in even though he has gone and moved to Australia.  Maybe that was a hint?  I have always been pretty slow on picking these hints up.

The thing is, though, I can count the number of true friends I have on one hand.  No, I don’t have a hand with an inordinate number of digits, I just have so few friends.  Admittedly, my habit of opening my mouth without thinking may have had an effect on the number of friends I have, but on the plus side, the friends I do have don’t get upset when I do open my mouth.  So, it’s really an understanding on their part.  Ahh, we draw closer to the answers!

So, it’s not me that gets friends, it’s the people who accept me the way I am.  Those people who can see past my rather cold and insulting facade and see my rather cold and insulting true self tend to be the ones that want to know me more.  Maybe it’s a belief that there must be more to my personality than I care to show.  Admittedly there is, we all have parts of our personality that only those truly close to us will ever see, but to have to put up with the ‘very difficult to get along with’ me just to see if there is something else, lurking in the darkness of my soul, is a little extreme!  Ok, so I’m not always so unapproachable, but even so, as I said, it’s no mean feat getting close to me.

Again I begin to digress and we get no closer to the answer than we did at the beginning.  I’m not a sociologist, psychologist or any form of tree-hugging person people.  I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to find true friends any more than I know why some of my friends have dozens of other friends.  It just comes down to personality.  We are each different and it’s that diversity which dictates how each of us progress through life, with or without friends.

All I know, at the end of the day, is that I am grateful for the friends I have and the friends I once had.  I sorely miss those that have died and think of them often, wondering what trouble we would be causing if they had been alive today.  Those that I still have, I have made a renewed effort to keep in touch with them and ensure that they begin to play a larger part in my life.  I have been too selfish in the past but I guess that my friends are used to the way I am and, fortunately, it hasn’t bothered them in the least.

Of all the things in this world, friendship is the one true thing that endures the test of time.  With them our lives can be more involving, different and somehow richer.  Without them, desolate.

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway.

– Jerome Cummings (whoever the hell he is!!)