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MARCUS BROTHERTON New York Times Bestselling Author

What does a 30-year friendship look like?

Mar 01, 2016 // By Marcus Brotherton

Hey there,

Tell me about your long-term friends.
The friends who know you better than anyone else.
The ones who stick with you through ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
Tell your story in the comment section below.

Here’s my story to get you thinking …

1. 10th grade, age 15

It was fall 1983, and we’re all about 15 years old here, in 10th grade at Mt. Boucherie Senior Secondary School, near Kelowna, British Columbia. It was a year of bad hair. All except Mark Nill, who always sported a stellar coif.

2. 12th grade, graduation, 1986, age 18

Spring 1986. Ages 17-18. Back then, everyone thought it was cool not to smile for your class pictures. I don’t know why, we were all pretty happy to graduate from high school.

3. 10th reunion, 1996, age 28

Summer 1996, ages 27-28, at our 10 year reunion. L-R Dan Taubensee, Mark Nill, Bob Craddock, Natalie (Sitko) Lawrie, who’d just had her first baby, Marcus Brotherton.

4. 1998, we turn 30, c

In summer 1998, celebrating turning 30.

5. 20 year, 2006, 38

Summer 2006, ages 37-38. Marked 20 years out of high school.

6. SaltSpring 2008, we turn 40

Summer 2008, turning 40.

7. 2015, age 47

Summer 2015 in Bend, Oregon. Ages 47-48, looking forward to celebrating 30 years out of high school in 2016. L-R Craddock, Taubensee, Nill, Brotherton.

 

Sheesh. Just look at us.

What a bunch of kids we were back then.

Tenth grade, and our guts were all tied in knots over our algebra homework. Bah. Don’t stress about your algebra homework, kids. Seriously. Unless you become a rocket scientist, you will never in your adult life—and I mean never—use the Law of Quadratic Reciprocity. Consider the polynomial f(n) = n2 − 5 and its values for n = 1, 2, 3, 4, ...

What else were we worried about at age 15?

Girls.

Zits. Bad hair. Cool parachute pants. A paper route. Being too skinny and wanting more muscle. Being able to ski down a black diamond run at Big White.

We weren’t best friends back then. Not yet. Remember?

Dan and I just rode the same yellow bus to school. Mark and I played on the same rugby team. Bob was the new kid in town, just trying to fit in.

Like we all were.

After school we played ping pong at Dan’s house. We played floor hockey in the gym. We swapped notes for Physics class.

That was about it for friendship, at first.

Things grow slowly, you know. We ate our bag lunches in the same place—Mr. Castle’s history classroom—because we didn’t have a cafeteria at our school, and you had to eat somewhere. Mr. Kingsley made us all run, run, run for Phys Ed. And Mr. Fowler was always saying “arts craftsy” and looking at the floor when he taught. Mr. Chalmers assigned us Macbeth and Hamlet and Lord of the Flies for English class.

We dated different girls: Yvonne and Natalie and Cathy and that girl from camp that Bob liked, I can’t remember her name now. Trudy hung around with us a lot, and we liked her. And Jessica had a way of brightening every single day at school.

We were friends with lots of people. Kevin and Scott and Daphne and Marnie. So many others. I don’t think we had cliques in our school. I hope we didn’t. We just were.

Then we graduated from high school and went our separate ways. Mark went to the University of British Columbia. Dan moved to Alberta to go to college. Bob and I both moved to Oregon to go to the same university, but not at the same time because Bob worked for two years in Kelowna first.

Only three years out of high school, Dan married his high school sweetheart. In Calgary. In December. Ever been to Calgary in December? We all braved dark icy roads to cheer him on. Bob was next to get married. Mark was third. I was last.

What did we worry about in our later twenties? A job that didn’t pay enough. If we were lucky, a tiny starter house that needed new siding and new windows and new carpet and a new fence. Understanding our spouses, and being understood by them. Things that seemed to work themselves out over time.

We saw each other at our 10-year high school reunion. Bob and his wife had a baby daughter by then. So did Dan and his wife.

What did we worry about in our thirties? The job again. The house. Paying the bills. What to do next in life. The friends and family we loved but didn’t see enough of.

_______________

It seemed hard at first to find the time to get away.
_______________

The older we got, the harder life seemed to get. Someone was laid off. Someone lost his job. Someone wished he’d lose his. A mutual friend of ours succumbed to an addiction and couldn’t climb out. A mother was diagnosed with cancer. Another friend came down with Crohn’s disease. A friend’s daughter was born with Down syndrome. We all read the news and worried about the economy and the wars and the future.

Dan’s dad died. He was too young, the first of our parents to go. We all like Dan’s dad a lot. We all went to the funeral. We wanted to be there for Dan. For us.

We traveled internationally, although none of us ever traveled together. Kenya. England. Israel. Haiti. Guatemala. Germany. We got different jobs. We got different houses. We all had children eventually.

Then—this was maybe 12 or 13 years out of high school—we connected for a weekend, just the four of us. Bob called us all up and insisted that we go.

It seemed hard at first to find the time to get away.

But then we all got out there, all together again, with the tang of salt water in the air near the ocean and the smell of a smoky campfire at night, and time flew by too quickly for us, far too quickly.

We met a couple of years later at a borrowed cabin on Salt Spring Island. Bob initiated it again. We played a mean game of pickle ball and went kayaking and hiking and stayed up late watching stupid movies about cars and cage match fighters and hit men.

And then it became a habit.

Every two or three years.

Pretty soon, none of us required convincing anymore.

Dan flies in from Calgary. Mark comes around from Vancouver. Bob drives up from Portland. I come from Bellingham. We eat steak. Tell jokes. Argue about politics. Trash talk each other in the kindest of ways. Let each other know how we’re truly doing. Talk about our jobs. Talk about our families. Wonder together about the mysteries of God.

_______________

We find we have become these people to each other who won’t turn our backs on the rest of the group.
________________

We are middle aged men these days, I guess, and we gathered this past summer down in Bend, Oregon, some thirty years out of high school now.

We find we are neither old nor young. Together, our collective children range from age 2 to 22. One of Dan’s children has graduated from college already; the other is a senior in high school. Bob’s oldest is in college; his youngest is 16. Mark has three kids, all at home in school still. I have the three children with the most scattered and youngest of ages.

Nobody has divorced. But nobody’s marriage has been without effort. We’ve all changed jobs several times. Mark is a high school principal today. Dan works for the postal service. Bob works for Compassion International, helping the children of the world escape poverty. I put words together and see if they stick.

We didn’t set out to be such good friends, but we find now that we are. We find we have become these people to each other who won’t turn our backs on the rest of the group. We understand our history and where we’ve been and where we might go better than pretty much anyone else.

They talk about iron sharpening iron. About friendships with bands that can bond as tight as brothers. What surprises me is that when I was younger, that kid in 10th grade, I didn’t understand what a reality that might be one day. How good these friendships could actually become over the years.

Me, I needed to learn about this possibility over time. Through intentionality. Through the work and grace and persistence of others.

And you?

________________

You become deliberate in your stickiness.
________________

Maybe you have this already. But if you don’t, you could start by mixing up this glue with the friends you already have.

How’s it done? You become deliberate in your stickiness. You call someone up, someone you want to connect with again. You risk breaking the ice if you haven’t talked in a while.

Maybe you start by saying something arbitrary and awkward like, “Man, have you seen those Blue Jays lately?” And it won’t be baseball season. But then you just jump in. You start talking again, no matter how weird it feels.

Then you get off the phone and you feel okay. You know you’ll open up a bit more the next time you talk. And so will your friend. Then you’ll drink coffee and eat pizza and have history and you’ll talk again like you were meant to talk.

As you do this, and as you don’t give up, along the way a vision gets cast for you and your friends. It may feel surprising at first, but it shouldn’t be surprising. The vision is that you can become the deepest of longtime friends over time. And you sense this is one of those rock solid values that was meant to be.

Your friendship can grow into a truly good thing.

Question: Tell your story. What’s it like with you and your longtime friends?