This past weekend I traveled to San Diego for a surprise birthday party for Dr. Garfin. I won’t mention what number birthday it was, but let’s just say he was really young when he operated on me, this month, 19 years ago!
It was a great dinner party, with mostly family, and Dr. Garfin was very surprised. What was most fun for me, however, was being with him - with his family. I was the only one who called him “Dr. Garfin;” to everyone else there, he was just “Steve” or “Dad.”
Several times throughout the evening I heard, “Did you fly here just for this?”
My answer? “Of course! It’s Dr. Garfin!”
There was one other person at the party who understood, fully, why I was there. The host of the party was also a patient of Dr. Garfin’s. He was an NBA all-star during the 1980s, and if you were alive in the 80s you would know his name. Being a surprise party, I was there before Dr. Garfin arrived and had an opportunity to talk with the host for a while. We shared back stories; we shared Garfin stories and we both share the same sentiment: he changed our lives.
The one question I get at each and every talk is, “Do you still have back pain?”
No, no I don’t. And I have Dr. Garfin to thank for that each and every day I get up in the morning, each day I run and play with my children, and even when I fly 12 hours on an airplane round trip to attend a birthday party. Did I go just for that? Of course. And I’d do it again. Pain free.
One is silver and the other is gold?
We all have new friends and old friends; college friends, grade school friends, work colleagues who become friends; friends we meet as adults. Some of these friends I see daily; some I see a few times a year; some I miss dearly, think about often, but don’t see often enough. Is one “better” than the other….is one silver and one gold? I don’t think so…
The friends I see each week probably know my daily life the best. They watch me raise my children (they help me raise my children!), we share weekends, nights out, our kids’ lives, our lives - they know me well (and like me anyway).
The friends I see a few times a year are my longtime friends. The ones I can talk to every so often and pick up where we left off, catching up and covering the high lights (and low lights) of our lives. I know their children (some are my godchildren) and we send presents at birthdays so our children don’t forget us. They know me like few do: who I was as a teenager, my parents, my siblings, my past relationships and how they defined me. Most of these friends knew me “before the accident.” And that makes them different than any friend I could know now.
Was I that different “before the accident”? Yes. And our friendships survived anyway. They liked me then and they like me now, but they never let me forget who I was.
The friends I don’t see often enough are mostly my classmates and teammates from Notre Dame. They too are life-long friends; they too knew me “before;” and with that there is a bond that does not go away. Would I like to see them more often? Of course. Would we instantly reconnect? Of course. Are they silver or gold? Neither.
Some friends come and go - and some leave footprints. All are important and all play a role in our lives - from which we learn through joy or hurt feelings. I treasure my old friends because of a shared history that no one can duplicate. But I treasure my new friends because of our shared present that is just as much a part of me.
I would not be the person I am without my old friends who have helped me through life. Nor would I be who I am (and could not do what I do) without my new friends, who continue to help me through life.
Is one silver and one gold? No, they are both platinum.