I have an old friend I want to tell you about. Actually, he's a fairly new friend, but he's an older man — even older than I am.
I'm sure he wouldn't consider himself old. "Old" is always about 12 years older than we are, no matter what our age.
I've known this gentleman for only about a year. He stopped by the newspaper office almost a year ago, unannounced. Terri at the front desk said there was someone to see me. He had come by to comment on a hunting story I had written. He appreciated the story, he said. He had a strong connection to the people I had written about.
He was a big man, not heavy but tall and solidly built. He was headed up the shore.
I asked him to sit down, there in the lobby, and we chatted for 20 minutes or so. He's an affable guy, in his early 80s. I was struck by how happy he seemed. He laughed easily. He wasn't angry about the government or technology or "kids today" or anything else. He was open about his life, even in that first conversation, and he didn't just want to talk about himself. He asked questions. He talked about books he had read, places he had traveled.
All of us, I think, come across people in our lives that we consciously decide to spend more time with. I decided that I wanted to keep in touch with this man. He gets up to Duluth and the North Shore fairly regularly. He stops by, or we meet someplace. We talk for about an hour. And off he goes.
I'm not sure what I was looking for in this friendship. I'm fortunate to have plenty of wonderful friends. But sometimes, no matter how old you are, you enjoy knowing folks who are farther down life's path than you are. You can learn from them, even though they have no idea they're teaching you anything.
When we're together, we talk about all kinds of things — books or magazine stories we've read, his work (he's still running his own business), my work, our kids, travels, growing up in farm country — whatever. He seems to value the friendship as much as I do. He gives me small things. I try to return those favors. We say goodbye in parking lots or on downtown Duluth streets, and he's on his way again.
He has made my life richer in small ways, or maybe in larger ways that I don't yet recognize.
I don't know where our friendship will go. I have no expectations, and I don't think my new old friend does either. We'll just let it ride along, both of us investing something in the relationship, and see what happens. Perhaps we'll drift apart over time. Perhaps we'll become closer.
This friendship is much different than many others I have. Those have been forged and nurtured over the decades through common bonds — marriage, family ties, hunting, fishing, paddling, personal trials, travel and more. I cannot imagine my life without those friends. I have shared my deepest joys and fears with them. They have been there when I needed them most.
This new friendship may never reach that level. But it's good right where it is.
SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find his Facebook page at facebook.com/SamCookOutdoors or his blog at samcook.areavoices.com.