I recently visited a friend, and we started chatting about our old childhood friendships. Growing up, I had few friends; those I did have were not the greatest . . .

Jack

I brought up one boy, Jack, who I’d considered my best friend from first through third grade. I hadn’t talked to him since high school. “I’m not sure what’s happened to him,” I said to my friend. “He could be dead for all I know.”

On a whim I looked up my old best friend on Facebook, and . . . yep, sure enough, he was dead.

I could tell Jack had passed from all the memorials and “miss you sooo much” posts on his Facebook wall. His mother had posted old photos of them together.

While sad, it was honestly not a huge surprise.

I first met Jack in first grade during the Boy Scouts’ yearly canned foods drive. We started talking because we happened to be wearing the same type of shoes that day. We began “play-bumping” into each other like some weird roughhousing. And just like that we were friends.

I distinctly remember my euphoric feelings back then: I have a best friend . . . a brother.

Things started out great with Jack. I walked with him to his house after school where my parents picked me up later. His little sister was a bit of a tagalong and cried like crazy when we didn’t include her in our bro time. Things were great between him and me — until his parents divorced.

It was a pretty nasty divorce, and Jack’s demeanor changed completely. He got more temperamental, mainly towards his sister. They got into huge screaming arguments in front of me, and even at 7 or 8 I felt so embarrassed to bear witness.

He behaved more poorly in school, including one incident with the teacher dragging him into the hallway and his screaming, “NO! NO! NOOOOOOO!”

Yeah . . . my best friend, I guess.

One time Jack beat his cat angrily with his fist. His mom (a rather cigarettey woman) acted super nice to me but berated Jack in front of me, always calling him by his first and middle name rather than his father’s last name. I guess I wanted to help comfort him, but the divorce was such a grown-up, “hush-hush” thing that his parents tried to keep from me as I just kept playing quietly with Jack.

I didn’t know what to do at that age. On top of that, Jack’s newly explosive behavior alienated me quite a bit.

We drifted apart, and by high school he had become a more deviant character with these crazy spider hair styles, and he’d also picked up his mother’s habit of smoking. Another friend told me he knew from mutual friends that Jack had died from a drug overdose last year. As I scrolled through his old Facebook he looked stereotypically druggie-like in all his photos, complete with tattoos and flipping off the camera.

Jack’s life had been a sad story, and I wonder how different our relationship would’ve been had his parents not divorced.

Wes

Another boy named Wes shared a third grade class with me. He was my “first crush,” of sorts — a “bro crush” might be more accurate.

We looked similar with the same dark hair, eye colors, and height. Teachers kept mixing us up all the time. Lindsay Lohan’s Parent Trap had released around this time, and I entertained the idea that Wes and I were long lost twin brothers.

I loved the idea of him and me as family to escape my lonely only child existence. We never did connect as friends for some reason.

Like Jack, Wes also grew into a stereotypically deviant “druggie” with long hair, covered head-to-toe in tattoos and piercings. Ironically, he ended up working as the janitor at my church, though I never did talk to him.

Last year, Wes also died of a drug overdose.

Geez, I guess they need to fire the police officer who led the D.A.R.E. lessons at our school.

Danny

I often think of one other boy from my childhood, and thankfully he’s not dead and seems to be doing alright for himself. I met Danny in fourth grade, and things started off great and fun to hang out with him. On the other hand, he was rather obese and had an obnoxious obsession with farting (I mean, even more than the average 10-year-old boy).

Danny’s idea of a good time mostly revolved around computer games, computer games, and — oh yeah — computer games. He wasn’t exactly one to go on adventures with me. While he seemed to like having me around, he often belittled my interests like drawing, or my favorite shows, always saying, “Those things are way too immature. I’m into far more important things.”

It’s weird now imagining a 10-to-12-year-old boy saying that. We also drifted apart after a while, especially when he moved to a different high school. I wasn’t exactly torn up, as I’d grown disillusioned with Danny as I had with Jack, though maybe to a lesser degree.

I reconnected with Danny a couple times in my twenties. His attitude hadn’t changed much. All my interests and life updates were met with dull “…okay…” responses while he prattled on about all the jobs and promotions he’d attained.

Any further attempt to hang out again later was met with the “I’ll let you know” of doom.

Luca

I recently watched the Pixar movie, Luca. The friendship depicted between the two boys was based on the director’s own childhood friendship with a guy he still calls his best friend to this day.

I loved the movie, but it made my heart ache for a childhood friendship like that. None of my childhood friendships remotely resembled the one in the movie (and we didn’t exist as sea monsters either).

I don’t look back on my childhood friendships with nostalgia like the director of Luca looks back on his. My moments of childhood brotherhood were spoiled by harsh realities. These ghosts of friendships past cannot be changed, though I do try to make up for it today with my current friendships.

Even though I don’t particularly miss those old childhood friends, I do think of the ghosts that could’ve been as they haunt me still.

Did you have any close childhood friendships? Do those childhood friendships continue to this day, or did those childhood bonds drift away into adulthood?

  • No real comment here, but I loved the parenthetical description of Jack’s mom…. (a rather cigarettey woman). Quite amusing.

  • Thank you for the post! I was just having a conversation yesterday with someone about how our childhoods were. While they had nostalgia for those ‘simple times’, I had nothing to enjoy reminiscing on. I grew up in a very small, conservative town where I was bullied or isolated by many boys at school. I quickly learned to push everybody out to protect myself from feeling like a weirdo or being made fun of. This led me to avoid male friendships for the most part until high school. Like you, when I watched Luca I was reminded how much of a loss it was to have no meaningful male relationships as a child. I find it really interesting to compare childhood experiences because overtime I’ve learned that what seemed ‘normal’ or ‘okay’ at the time really wasn’t.

    • Yeah I relate to this very much. I wish I could have more things to fondly reminisce on from my high school, middle school, and elementary school days. In a lot of ways it was just a whole lot of nothing. I often got insecure listening to boomers talk about their bygone childhood days when they went on adventures with friends all the time and I had nothing of the sort.

  • I enjoyed reading your post Eugene. Until the end of my third grade in school, our family lived in a neighborhood at the city line and then moved to a lovely, unique, quirky place out in the country. In the old neighborhood there were a lot of children, but in our new place, there were none to speak of. It had meant changing school districts and I recall how hard that was.

    The kids in the new school were mean, and I was often bullied and was so embarrassed about it. So, I often retreated to my room where I lived in my own world. I do remember one guy though:

    His name was Eric, and he lived a ways down the road. His family were Christians if I remember right, and he was a sweetheart of a guy – kind, thoughtful, very loving… At the end of my 6th grade, his family moved away, and I recall vividly our saying goodbye on the bus. After I got off the bus and it had pulled away, as I was walking up our long driveway, I started weeping. I have thought of him many times over the years, and miss him. If he hadn’t moved, I think we would have been good friends, at least. I wish I could remember his last name, so I could look him up. He was a bright spot I had growing up.

    • Aw that’s sad. Still its a blessing to have had him as a friend at all even if he moved away. At least you had something. I think back to my childhood friendships I listed in the blog and man I really just have no nostalgia for them at all.

  • Dang, I was waiting to hear about that one great friend story and I guess Luca was it. Now I wanna check the film out, if nothing else to see where sea monsters fit. I’m with Sergei on the mom description. Most moms I remember tried their best to rock the Cuban cigar look. There’s gotta be some guys here who had/have great childhood friends that last. We moved around alot, last move was in the middle of my junior HS year, the eighth one living at home. Moving around it was easy meeting people and still is, but there everyone kinda grew up together and knew each other forever and having long term friends hit as something not only possible but good.

    Speaking of friends, gotta share with y’all I finally met a real life Side B guy here in Jersey, actually first time meeting a real Side B guy anywhere; up till now it’s only been gay guys who are either non-religious or Side A. It was great, it didn’t matter we had totally different paths to where we are today, it’s just good talking real life with someone else following Christ sharing the same journey. It hit me that it’s the best kinda fellowship, being in that place where you can breathe. I’m praying we become friends long term, encouraging each other to keep going.

    • Oh awesome, I’m glad you finally got to finally meet a Side B person! It makes such a difference to meet someone in person than just talk to them on line doesn’t it? I have a few Side B friends I have visited a few times over there in New Jersey.

      • Yeah, I figured there’s gotta be some here 🙂 It’s weird how connections happen. There’s a builder I work with, he’s a friend & a Christian & he leads a mens group & he’s telling me about this guy standing up in the group sharing his side b journey. It hit me after, the guy might be walking alone too, so next time we’re on a job site together I share about my ssa & tell
        him it’s ok to pass on my name. It was kinda coming out to my builder friend but worth it, it makes such a difference as you said. If you’re in Jersey, count me as a friend & if you got time, hit me up & we can catch a gallery & some pizza together.

  • Every now and then I can’t help myself from stalking old classmates. A curiosity to see what they look like now, have they gotten married yet, become fathers, etc. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across someone yet who’s died, let alone a couple someones as you have. My heart does get a little heavy when I think about my childhood or see childhood friendships depicted on screen, like the one in Luca. I never had that either. Every once in a while I’ll hear someone say something like “my friend from elementary days” or “we’ve been friends since kindergarten,” and I’m like…what even is that? So hard to even fathom such a longstanding bond.

    But take heart, Eugene. I know you have good friends now, as do I. I’d like to think our “lack” from childhood has produced an overflowing tank today of what it means to be a good friend. Nothing is wasted.

    • Ha yeah well my one straight friend I’ve blogged about is someone I’ve known ever since first grade! Granted we haven’t exactly been friends that long. But still, its weird to think about. And yeah I’ve Facebook stalked many of them. I think I heard one comedian quote that was like “Facebook is great for seeing if your old high school classmates are dead, fat, or gay.”

      And yeah, I know God had a hand in whatever the reason was for the lack of friendships growing up. I think it makes me a better friend to the ones I have today.

  • Present in the Super Ego or buried deep, trapped and frantically swimming and wrecking chaos in the dark subconscious river of the Id, I have yet to meet a man who experiences SSA who doesn’t have wounds from other men.

    Frequently paternal or fraternal, but more often then not the common denominator I see over and over are peer or friendship wounds of the past. These wounds, however conscious or not we are of them, seem to have been scared upon men who are by nature more sensitive or prone to wounding. They haunt us in our minds and triggered emotions, manifesting themselves in our dreams, thoughts, present relationships, fantasies and in our lusts. Listening to, not running from the ghosts of our past can be painful but also show areas of potential healing that can become our greatest strengths. I appreciate what Tom said about how these experiences have made you who you are today Eugene. I read this quote last week from David Richo and thought you may like it:

    “Without betrayal we would have no stimulation, no incentive to leave home, to strike out on our own, and consequently, to find self-reliance. Without it, Joseph would not have been sold into slavery, which put him on the path to his special destiny beside Pharaoh. We stumble onto such paradoxes at every turn of the human story: Dante had to be exiled from Florence, the city he loved, before he could write The Divine Comedy. Homer and Milton went blind before they wrote their thrilling epics. Beethoven went deaf before he composed the great quartets. In each instance, the artist produced the great work he was destined for after pain and loss. We are artists, too, and our fate – and challenge – is much the same. We cannot unlive our painful history, but we do not have to relive it. We cannot let go of it, but we do not have to hold on to it. In Eqyptian myth, Osiris is cut into pieces by his dark brother Set. Thereafter Osiris becomes immortal when his sister/spouse, Isis does the work of finding the pieces and re-membering him. Repeated assaults on our sense of self cut us into pieces. We live in pieces for a while and then, through our feminine powers of searching and sewing, we are recollected and find our way to wholeness. The ancient shamans initiated men by ritual dismemberment. As with Christ, Dionysus, and Osiris – and us – fragmentation is often a necessary phase in the transition from humiliation and abuse to self-assurance and compassionate love. Wounded heroes redeem others only because they themselves have experienced both fragmentation and restoration. There is a path to love among the ruins.”

    Thank you for sharing with us your ghosts Eugene. I have my own that haunt me and like you am doing my best to allow them to show me the way towards and not away from healthy communion, brotherhood, love and discipleship.

    • Thank you, Mark! Yeah in many ways I’ve often wondered if the lack of friendships growing up did cause my attraction to men, if homosexuality truly does have a nurture element. Its awful to have this aching wishing for a different past. Not feeling complete because of what’s happened.

      Its funny, I have definitely seen a sentiment even among secular gays to have this longing for brothers or brotherhood with men that is nonsexual in nature. It seems common.

  • Eugene Heffron

    I’m a 30-something still trying to find my way in the world. Lover of all things creative, I am a drawer with an intuitive mind while also a deep thinker. I can be a person of extreme opposites: one moment a lone wolf, the next a social butterfly; one moment joyful and optimistic, yet sad and melancholic the next. As I came to terms with my SSA I met fellow SSA Christians and formed deep, intimate bonds. I’ve always longed for brotherhood and, at last, I have found it after years of social isolation. I am glad to be part of this community of bloggers and share my stories and struggles, joys and sorrows, dreams and longings.

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