The first lesson I distinctly remember learning from my Dad (besides don’t draw on the couch – a post for another day) is how to be a friend. Sure before that moment there had been countless lessons – don’t touch the hot stove, never run out in traffic, stop biting your brother – but my honest to God first teachable, let’s sit down and talk about it moment was about friendship. I was in pre-school, I had just made my first friend, and I am not sure what had led to that moment, maybe not doing what she wanted to do, or not sharing, but either way I remember the words in the voice only a dad can do (you know the all knowing, patient but strong, loving but stern) he said “you know Jackie, to have a friend – you have to be a friend” and just like that my father became the expert in friendships.
To this day I can still recount each memory from the collection of friendship stories he would tell us about his close friends. Some of them were silly, some were about dating, some were lessons in friendship, some were lessons in manners, – but they all often contained two key components: my dad’s very particular mischievous grin as he told the tale and a very distinct group of friends. During each stage of Dad’s life he would add a friend or two to the mix – grade school to middle school, and high school to college – and all of these friendships were epic. Of course the tall tales never failed to amuse my siblings and I – but for me they painted a picture of the friendships I dreamed of for my life too. Here is the thing about my dad’s friends, they weren’t just characters from his past – they were tangible people we all have come to know. My Dad’s best friends from high school are people we all grew up actually visiting. If you are lucky kiddo, you will tend to put your parents on a superhero platform – representing the life that you intend to have for yourself – well when it came to friendships, I hoped to be the friend that my dad was to his friends.
In 2012 my dad lost one of his long time best friends. There is rarely a story from my dad’s early childhood right on through to his early 20s that did not include Jim. My dad attributes his good manners, generosity, and ability to find the best in people to Jim and his family that became my Dad’s family for a lot of his life. SO MANY of our childhood lessons were wrapped up in stories about Dad and Jim, and when this loss hit we were all heartbroken for Dad.
But in the spirit of the friend they had lost, Dad and his friends started an annual golf tournament to remember Jim with a little fun and to support a mission of his: Community Coalition for Haiti. Jim was an architect and his firm was the group that helped with INOVA Fairfax’s big redo and expansion. Through that effort he had gotten involved in the helping to provide relief in Haiti, specifically through the building of a surgical center. Each year friends and family gather to play in this tournament and support the cause. My Dad and his friends even had the pleasure of going and working in Haiti for a few days. They witnessed first hand the help Jim’s efforts had provided – and how continuing his good will would provide much needed support to a downtrodden people.
Danny and I have been honored to participate each year. Some years Danny has played or volunteered and others we are just dinner attendees. But it has turned into a nice tradition that really helps to kick off our summer season and honor the true meaning of friendship.
The past two years my mother-in-law has joined in to play as well!
The other part of this story that is interesting is the role Jim has played in Danny and my life. INOVA renovations has been the focus of his firm for many years. Which coincidentally Fairfax hospital has been a setting for many of Danny and my memories over the years. The improvements that have provided increased comforts, developed a more clean environment, and offered safer places to walk, have made a huge difference when we are living our life amongst the hospital walls. Over the last few blockage stays in 2015, I lived out of the hospital with only a few breaks a day. These moments of down time would come at all hours, so being able to walk around the hospital and find calm water fountains with carefully lit sitting areas that reminded me of a hotel or spa were so appreciated. When I would step outside for fresh air, it was into park like accommodations with benches and walking paths so you could take in the lush green grass and gardens and not just the cement of a parking garage. And when Danny was finally able to get out of bed – we actually felt like we could take a walk that provided a break from just hospital views of IV poles and hospital beds. These experiences are unbelievably helpful when you find yourself as a hospital patient and their family.
We are so grateful for Jim and his efforts that have directly impacted our lives and we are inspired by the ways he has helped the lives of others. Whenever we pass this little fountain we fondly think of him and say a little prayer. And Dad – thank you for the lessons in friendship and how it truly is a life long commitment.
Thank you for reading and remember to make it a great day!
2 thoughts on “To Have A Friend”
Not sure what to say but your post brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat! Friends are one of God’s greatest creations and I have been blessed with friends from my childhood, my wife and her family; my children and their friends; and my career – doesn’t get any richer! Love Dad
Jackie, Thanks for the beautiful post. My children have the same view of how blessed their dad (me) has been to have such great lifelong friends. Having the same birthday, Jerry and I had an incredible bond since 7th grade, and it’s never changed. That friendship included Jimmy, Pat, Ricky and others, and we’ve treasured all those relationships for many years. I consider myself one lucky guy to call each of them and their families our closest pals! Elizabeth and I have another year to go of our volunteer service in California, and then we’re looking forward to a lot more great time together with everyone back East. All my love and best wishes! Glen