Mr. D and I were friends back in high school. We hung out in the same crowd, but I don't know that we ever got to know each other very well. He dated a couple of my friends, I dated a couple of his, and we had a mutual best friend in common. He was what I considered a bit of a wild child, always fun and outgoing. He dyed his hair blond at times and always had this big, goofy grin.
We didn't spend much time together, or at least talking. We did, however, share a birthday.
Once we left for college, we didn't really have the type of friendship where we would have kept in touch. Somehow, though, every year on our birthday, I received a text or email from Mr. D with a birthday message. Every year! And after the first couple years, it became one of the things I looked forward to most on my birthday. We didn't talk the other 364 days in the year... we didn't really know much about each other, although we still share that same best friend... but despite anything else happening in our lives, those messages still came through on that one day. And I'd wait, each year, as the clock ticked just past midnight and that little "ding" popped through on the phone.
In 2005, my mother passed, and in 2006, his. And that somehow became another life event that drew us together as friends. On Mother's Day, we both understood what the other was feeling. On Christmas, how hard it was to be without them. Suddenly the birthday messages weren't the lone exchanges; now a couple more days a year were added on. And Mr. D was decidedly better than me at reaching out; he is a genuine person who really cares about his friends.
Somewhere in the last year, he's become someone I consider to be a close friend. We haven't seen each other in person in probably close to 15 years and we live halfway across the country from each other, but he's one of the people I know will answer when I need a friend. He will understand the topic whether it's missing mom, crazy high school shenanigans, or trying to figure out something in life. The past year and a half, as Dad's been battling his illness, Mr. D has been there for my random texts and worries because he understands the pain in a sick parent, and he's done more than his fair share in trying to keep my chin up.
It's pretty incredible how you can not see someone for so long and still feel like they make an impact in your life more than most can. Mr. D has made an indelible mark on my life since the time we were 16 years old, even if I didn't realize it until I was older. And if you'd told me at 16 that Mr. D would be someone I talk to more than most, I'd have probably thought you were crazy.
When my kids worry that a friend is leaving their school and they're scared they'll never see them again, I remind them of my friends like Mr. D. Sometimes people go on different paths in life. Sometimes people move far away, and sometimes we don't see them for a very long time. But sometimes, the people who are physically the farthest away, are some of the closest people in our lives.