The Art of Friendship
Before I begin I would like to ask anyone who visits this piece to spare a moment, a short reflection, for all our friends who are no longer with us.Thank you.
How do you make a friend? What is the initial attraction? Go back to your childhood and think about it, then your formative years, then your teenage years and lastly your adult years. Did things remain the same during all these phases or did you look for different things at different stages?
What was the one constant? Was it you or was it someone else? Did all your friends represent the same likes or ideals and that is what you looked for? Hang on a minute, did you find them or did they find you? Think about it.
Personally I think that there is one constant and it always applies and that is;
To have a friend, first you must be a friend?
My first friend was born three days before me and from there we had a lifelong friendship. From junior school we then went our different ways and on completing senior school he went to varsity and I decided to do my National service first.However whilst doing this service I became desperately ill and as a result of medication given to me by my Doctors lost all my hearing. People do not understand deafness and I was now profoundly deaf, which simply means that one has no hearing whatsoever. That means nothing. Nothing, I cannot hear OK, nothing. Seems simple enough to understand, yet people do not seem to realise that I’m not hard of hearing, I have no hearing.
My friend came back from varsity for holidays at the time when I was out of hospital and trying to recover, so he dropped in to see how I was doing. I couldn’t believe the difference in his looks as he had suddenly metamorphosis’d into ‘ far out man.’ The things varsity do to you. It was the first time he had seen me since leaving school.
Sitting in the lounge with my mother doing all of the talking my mate could not even look at me. I mean not at all. Every time our eye’s met he glanced away. I had not learnt to lip-read at this time and was still using pencil and pad, consequently I did not contribute to the conversation and was hurt by my mate glancing away all the time.
The long and short of all this is that I was still trying to learn to walk and had huge balance problems. Needed a walking stick and some one close beside to catch me in case I fell. Anyway my ‘ mommy ‘ suggested my mate take me for a walk. Once we were away from my mom I opened up and started prattling endlessly using very naughty words and talking about very naughty things.Just before we got home my mate wrote an epistle for me and what he said was,” that initially he was so shocked to see me looking so frail and on top of that being deaf that he didn’t now what to do with himself or how to start. However, once I started talking to him, it was like old times and he felt comfortable again.”
Actually it was one of the most important lessons that I learnt in life. That being that it is not peoples job to be comfortable with me, but rather it is up to me, to make them comfortable with me. I never forgot this and it was to stand me in good stead in later stages in my life.
Sometimes, that’s what friends are for. As it turns out we combined our 21st, birthday parties, I was best man at his wedding and him at mine. But prior to all this, when I was at college being the only deaf person there. I managed to make friends relatively easy apart from the normal initial hiccups.
Two great examples of this were at tea one day most of the lads suddenly burst out laughing. I knew the joke was on me, so pretending to be in a huff, I asked what was funny. It appears one of the lads had been home for the week-end ( nowhere near where I lived ) and a mother had asked him about college and whether he knew me and what did he think of me. He replied that I was a great bloke to which she shrieked;
” He’s a horrible little child with a mean streak in him.”
At age four in the sandpit at the club where they used to live, I had a bout of fisticuffs with her son and amazingly won. Just goes to show hey!The next incidence was along the same lines but without the laughter. What they told me was that everybody at college had different friends, but that everybody liked Spook. I was flattered by this and it still remains one of the highlights of my life.
Whilst still in Zimbabwe I always remained popular for some reason and used to love nothing better than going to an international cricket game and wandering around the ground. As I did this people would come down from the stands and shake my hand and have a chat. I must say I loved it.When I moved to South Africa, I had to start all over again but oddly enough had no real problems making friends and some of them did not even speak English. Many of the people I met there remain some the greatest friends I ever knew.
When I returned to Zim. it was if I had never moved away but somehow it was different as so many of my friends had also fled and never returned.
When I left Zim. after the infamous landgrab and moved to Ireland, somehow, for reasons unbeknown to me I never made a friend and still haven’t. It is also the worst experience I have had as a deaf person in a long life.Naturally there is good and bad in all this but I still can’t understand it.