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Gordon Cameron

Of old friends in new times

It had been years since the three of us had been in the same room. There was no big reason for it. No knock-down, drag-out fight. No acts of betrayal. No financial partnerships gone awry. It was just that life had caused us to drift apart the way it often does when no one’s watching.

The three of us have known each other for close to 35 years. We grew up on the same street and were in and out of each other’s houses so much that we were never more than two phone calls away when our parents wanted to find us. We, along with my brother and some of the other neighbourhood boys, had our own secret club, with our own secret handshake. We played all kinds of sports and games, often reinventing the rules in the process to suit our needs. (Hitting the ball out of the yard was an automatic out rather than a home run and you had to hop the fence to get it back.) We used our imaginations playing cars, Star Wars, G.I. Joe, guns, Transformers and acting out characters in the elaborate scenarios we’d concoct.

But nothing lasts forever.

As one by one we graduated high school we started drifting further and further apart. We would still get together in the summers and when I was home at Christmas (particularly on Boxing Day), but gone were the times when we’d spend almost every waking moment together. By the time I moved out to Alberta it seemed that the best days of our friendship were behind us.

While I was gone, the other two stayed close. I reconnected with them a bit around one of their weddings but it wasn’t until after I moved back to Ontario in 2005 that the three of us became inseparable again.

Those next few years were like a second golden age for us, and while our adventures might have changed, the camaraderie hadn’t.

Then slowly things began to fade again. It was nobody’s fault, it’s just our lives and circumstances made it harder and harder to get together until we just stopped trying. Since then, I wouldn’t need all my fingers to count the times that I’d seen or spoken to either one of them.

When the invitation came to the 40th birthday party for the oldest among us, I found myself feeling nervous about seeing my two oldest friends again. Aside from the obvious potential for awkwardness, deep down what worried me was that what we once had was finally gone for good. It’s one thing to wonder about it, as I had off and on over the last few years, but it’s quite another to know it.

When we got together you could feel the distance between us. Major events had taken place in our lives that were either unknown to the others or had only been relayed to us in parts by our mothers.

We made polite small talk and tried to figure each other out. How had we all changed and did that mean the only relationship we could have would be solely based on the past?

I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but it did. The years fell away and the three of sat and talked late into the night the same way we did when we were six, 16 and 26.

I don’t know where this all will lead, but it’s good to know that we’re not done just yet.

Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News.

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