Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Casual Acquaintance

While going about my petty duties I remarked for the second time in as many days that the weather is changing. Autumn is approaching. Yesterday it was the glimpse of a large maple tree whose leaves have begun to burnish. This afternoon when seated near an open window, reading the History of Law in Canada, I became chilled by the wind billowing through the shears and ended retrieving my red woollen cardigan from the closet. We quipped that a martini would complete the picture!  As well it might - but mournfully not without inducing an early retirement. The object is never a drink but rather to get drunk.

My so-called friendships are few in number. Certainly those nearby are limited.  Even my erstwhile friendships further abroad with former school chums are much diminished. Attempting to lessen the loss by excusing the effect of time and space does little to strengthen the fellowship which once existed. It may be over-reaching to suggest there has been a falling out but certainly the diminution of frequency has highly diluted the caliber of the attachment. I have occasionally analyzed the other possible reasons for the alteration.  In at least two instances, personal misfortune appears to have prevailed. This initially inspired me to attach a charitable approach to the former alliance but in the end I accept that circumstances really do change and no amount of pity or remorse can restore what was. Another friend has seemingly endured so many professional challenges to his time and energy - and in the process been overtaken by obligations of family and grandchildren - that to expect anything from him is unfair. Naturally there are companionships which no longer contain mutuality of interest, where people have moved on to other interests and communities (social, professional and even religious). When people reappear from the past - and we behave with expected mannerisms - they do not qualify as friends.

I mention this because today at the grocery store I encountered a gentleman whom I instinctively like but whom I haven't spoken to in a long time.  He and I were never close - we had a professional association for over thirty years - but we've always been able to share a candidness. Among the frank details he imparted was the death of at least ten people whom we once counted among our mutual and casual acquaintances. We joked about our own impending demise. This sort of reanimation is typical of what can now be expected. It does nothing to enlarge the breadth of friendship but it stimulates the embers of common contact. Significantly we parted on a cheery note though - less demonstrably - satisfied not to hasten our reunion. Our community was sufficiently exhausted for the moment.

Having the privilege of partnership of the convivial scale is accordingly not to be underestimated. For my entire life I have gravitated to social involvement. Sadly there are instances when resigned or obligated to pay for the privilege. There is however little which distinguishes such forcible companionship from mere third-party vicarious atonement. Barring that type of engagement I am content to value casual acquaintance in the absence of sustainable friendship. I have also deduced that it is to be expected that friendship will ultimately fade for one reason or another. Conjoined to that reality is the admission that we can usually bear the deprivation.

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