|Friends (The Beach Boys song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
When my family moved to East Tennessee for a trial see-how-we-liked-it period, we stayed the summer at Tarbett Road Trailer Park in our 17 foot camper trailer. This was my parents and me with my two brothers and two sisters. Talk about close quarters, but we had done this often and seemed to survive the situation okay.
It was the summer of 1966--right before I would start my sophomore year of high school. I made new friends around the trailer park quickly since there were several guys about my age living nearby. One with whom I became particularly close to was Fred Tilson. His real name was David Gale Tilson. I'm not sure why, but his mother called him David and his father called him Gale. His friends began calling him Fred and he seemed to prefer that.
During that summer Fred and I were hanging around so much of the time that my father started calling us "The Glass Brothers". This name came from the fact that we both wore dark framed glasses which gave us a certain resemblance to each other. We also had very similar interests, the primary one being music. Our conversations would often be centered on the popular music of the day--The Beach Boys, Lovin' Spoonful, and The Beatles. That summer the sounds of the local pop station could almost always be heard if we had a radio with us.
Though my father's reference to us was made in jest, I did begin to feel this brotherly kinship with Fred. We shared so many memorable experiences. We had a few downs, but mostly ups. Sometimes we'd go our separate ways, but when we'd get back together it was like homecoming and all was just as it been when we had last parted. Fred was about as close to a brother as any friend I've had.
When Fred became seriously ill in 1994 he tried to keep it from his friends. Eventually we all knew he might be dying. I was now living far off in California and couldn't make it to see him, but I called a mutual friend to keep me posted. When the day came that our friend Tom let me know that Fred was in the hospital, I called my "brother" to say my good-bye to him.
I could hear the weakness in his voice and could picture him in that hospital bed with friends around him. The man had a heck of a lot of friends.
We didn't say much. He was too weak to say much. I said, "I love you, Fred. You've been a great friend to me."
"I love you too, man," Fred replied in a thin fading voice.
Those were the last words we ever spoke to one another. I'm glad those were the words. Our friendship was the embodiment of brotherly love.
Have you had a friend whom you loved like a sibling? What makes a friendship stay true as years pass?