I remember when I first saw him in high school. His sister, a good friend of mine, pointed across a campus yard and said, “That’s my brother.”
He looked a bit like Harry Potter with his backpack and glasses and the way he trudged to class.
I met him later at their home and it was an immediate kinship where an invisible bond within the both of us blossomed to life. It was one of those instant friendships that deepened quickly over a short amount of time.
My deafness was actually familiar to him because his sister was deaf.
We were a band of brothers, the two of us. It was a versatile combination – we were troublemakers, pushing the limits to see what we could get away with. We were deep thinkers, talking long into the night on humanity, life, and of course girls and sexuality.
We were also practical jokers and there were many nights where we’d laugh our asses off at ourselves or whatever crazy situation we got ourselves into.
As we got older we stayed close. He became my best man at my wedding and later a godfather to my daughter upon her birth.
It was one of those forever high school friendships. We were soulmates.
Back then I was still hot headed at times and not always thoughtful with my words. I would make judgemental comments about others, even him and his family.
It was borne out of a lifetime of insecurity growing up deaf in a hearing world. For the longest time I didn’t always feel accepted or up to the standards of hearing folk so I’d take it out on those close to me and bring them to down to bring myself up.
That’s how I lost him.
I crossed a valley with my words and when he tried to talk to me about it I doubled down, basically saying he was making a mountain of a molehill.
I thought he was being foolish when it was I that was the fool, cratering the foundation of our friendship.
I didn’t realize the damage wrought and kept thinking he would cool off and come back around.
He never did.
I tried to circle back around a few years later and apologise but it wasn’t honest because I still didn’t realize exactly what I was apologizing for and I think he knew that.
Twenty years later I don’t know the full extent of my damaging words because my memory fails, but with the grace of growing up over those long years, I understand now he was setting healthy boundaries.
He did what he had to do and it was the right thing after I kept breaking those boundaries.
For many years after he broke our friendship off, I kept running into people who taught me the value of healthy boundaries the hard way by walking all over me.
That’s how life works in its own graceful way of giving me the hindsight to see what I did to our friendship.
It was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever hard to learn — along with learning the value and necessity of healthy boundaries in one’s life.
In a sense, his parting of the ways was a lifelong gift of learning.
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