Why Old Friends Matter For Fathers

Every year for the past two decades, I’ve had lunch with my closest friends from high school. It’s never not happened, but this year I was nearly the guy to ruin it. I postponed it twice for work and childcare reasons.

My wife thought I was crazy for shoehorning it into my schedule on Friday – and on paper she was right. But however busy we are right now, I couldn’t cancel.

This is selfcare, sure. But it’s also a connection to the men who have known me longer than my wife or anyone I’ve ever worked with. Our friendship has been a constant.

The locations have changed. For years we went to a German restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts, near where we went to school. We remembered it being great when we were young; it wasn’t anymore but we kept going. Nostalgia.

We tried a few other spots in the area and realized the location didn’t matter. Obviously, it didn’t, never did. It was the friendship.

Five, six years ago, our friend Tino moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, for his wife’s job. That left Andy, Mike and me.

When Mike moved his office to West Hartford, Connecticut, we started going there. It made the drive for Andy and me, one going west, the other north, about the same distance. We FaceTime Tino when we’re together.

The lunches follow the same format, a round-robin of us giving updates on our marriages, our children, our careers and our wins and losses from the past year. We talk about our plans for the year ahead. Like any friends who has known each other for 35 years, some years are better than others.

But it’s the time after the updates that’s magic. It’s the free association. It’s the banter. It’s the nonsense. It’s the comfort.

I was listening to a story on NPR a few weeks back that revisited Harvard’s Happiness Study (aka the Harvard Medical School’s Study of Adult Development). No surprise to me, but happiness is dictated by relationships – your spouse, your kids, your friends.

I seek out relationships through work and family, in my town, at my kids’ schools, as part of my alumni associations and clubs. They’re a boost. When meetups are planned, they’re something I look forward to. My friend Ed calls them “moments of fraternity,” which sounds like a loaded term but what he means is openness and connection, the kind the comes from time to be together.

When I got home my wife asked what we talked about. We were together for four hours on Friday afternoon. I summed it up in about 7 minutes. She looked at me with that look of: Was that it?

It was and it wasn’t. It was the time together. It was the shared food, coursed out to take more time. It was the ice cream and coffee to keep the afternoon going. It was the slowness. We’re at a stage where coordinating calendars, with kids, spouses, jobs, aging parents, and various commitments is hard.

“You look contemplative,” she said. It was a good way to sum it up.