It started out as a single get-together about three years ago.
My buddy Rich, who lives about an hour away, was going through a challenging time, so we got together for a breakfast to talk.
That might not seem so monumental on its face but consider that for us to meet, we each have to travel about 40 minutes to reach a place somewhere convenient for both of us in rural New Jersey.
But the travel was worth it since the purpose was to talk — about our jobs, our families and our anxieties.
That meeting turned out to be just as important for me as it was for him.
One of the things that I’ve come to realize as a guy north of 50 is the almost impossible challenge of cultivating new friendships and the importance of maintaining existing ones.
At this age, there is so much history and so little time to get involved with others, thanks to the commitments of work and family.
By contrast, with Rich, who I’ve known for close to 40 years, there is a built-in intimacy and understanding of our shared experiences.
That breakfast meeting has led to many more since then.
The one-on-one conversations have a different dynamic than when the larger group of my buddies – the About Men Radio posse — gets together.
In a group of three or more, the conversations will inevitably devolve into hilarity of penis jokes, double entendres or a marathon of chop-busting but seldom anything heavy.
But when there is time and space for just two of us to talk, a stillness pervades, the kinetic energy subsides and a focus on more serious topics takes over.
Rich and I do not solve all of our problems over omelets and toast, but we do engage in connected conversations about our families, jobs, aspirations, limitations, etc.
How the hell are we paying for our kids’ college?
What roles are we playing as dads? As breadwinners?
What do our futures look like? What keeps us up at night?
The meetings were an epiphany that it’s O.K. to ask for help or simply just vent.
During our last get-together, Rich replied to a note I sent:
“Good to see you too. …It’ll be interesting 20 years from now when we walk into a place with our canes or walkers to have toast and coffee together. Need to keep taking pics so we’ll have a chronicle of our meetings.”
Indeed, Rich. I look forward to it.