Aisle Of Wit

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My best friend is named Bob Boden.

He has been since a fateful September 9, 1974 when your author was stumped on a tough mixed-up word in the daily newspaper Jumble game that to this day occupies several minutes of my time to solve every morning.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t honestly write those words.  The past 21 months has seen tremendous personal change for yours truly, where nearly dying has finally triggered my obsessive desire to live in honesty and passion, with zero tolerance for anything even mildly reminiscent of the past that almost ended my life prematurely.  It has been a dizzying and at times exhaustive journey, because whenever there is an earthquake there is disruption, and for those who are happy disruption can be equally as terrifying as stagnation has been to me.

Our relationship was strained, in every manner from how one responds to the pandemic to how one responds when challenged by intense emotions to how one chooses to invest their time and remaining money.  In my defense, all I ever asked for was the right to be respected and acknowledged.  There were and are many days on this journey that I have felt it is ridiculous to be this resolute, often defaulting to hopelessness and despair, at times even questioning why I should even allow myself to wake up.

On those days, all I wanted was someone–anyone–to pick up a phone and speak or text a few words that would justify that choosing to wake up was the right decision.  At the outset of the journey, Bob filled that void, but that is not a job for one person alone.   For a while, a very special new friend filled the void of second proxy.  That relationship died, and I still grieve its death daily.   The pressure of trying to ground a life solo became overwhelming.  We fought constantly– I said many regrettable things, and I’d like to think in hindsight so did he.

For the first time in 47 years my birthday and what we now reference as “Jumble Day”–the anniversary of our meeting–went without our usual ridiculous banter that only truly lifelong friends can engage in.  The very roots of “Leblanguage”.  No arguing as to who would pick up the check for a meal (more often than not, it was me).  No references to long-lost friends from our youth who we’d inexplicably place in media executive roles that they never pursued.  No nods to highly specific references from obscure Bill Cullen-hosted failures we passionately followed in our youth (“The naughty canoe hid from its mother because it didn’t want to ___________ __________.  Anne Meara, can you fill in the Blankety Blank?).

It was a very painful few weeks.  The silence was deafening.  I was so tempted to reach out.  I was consistenly implored to do so.  But if the past 21 months have left any lasting impact it is to FIGHT for what you KNOW is RIGHT, and NEVER to give in to anything that will mean you make a move without at least some compromise.  I avoided any contact with him, even social media.  I cried a LOT.  My few new friends were perplexed and I was inconsolable.  But I stood my ground.  Just once, I prayed, just once, Bob needed to make the first outreach.

On Yom Kippur afternoon he did; first by e-mail and then by phone.  We have had this somewhat sinister way of greeting each other’s calls with a reference to an office belonging to someone who either recently died or had a traumatic event befall them.  As if on cue, when I saw his number come up, my mind defaulted to the recently deposed czar of Jeopardy.  I answered “Mike Richards’ office?”.  Bob was flabbergasted, exclaiming “I was JUST going to say that!!!’.  We talked for a while.   We didn’t fight.  We didn’t scream.  It felt good.  That alone got me through the last four hours of fasting.

We’re going for a long walk this morning, just like we used to.  We don’t walk fast; we take baby steps.  That’s somewhat appropriate.  The next 47 years won’t be exactly like the first; but they will happen.  I’m genuinely happy about that.

Oh, and for those playing along at home:  The naughty canoe hid from its mother because it didn’t want to…GET PADDLED!!!!

Welcome back, best friend.

Until next time….