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Friends past and passed, but still around
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I am blessed with lots of people I call friends.

On Facebook, that bastion of Internet friendship, I have somewhere around 2,500 friends. I could not identify some of them if they walked into a room. I don’t know how many of them would loan me $5, buy me a Coke or help me change a flat tire.

When I go, I don’t know how many of them will show up for my funeral. I’m planning for about 10 people. I’ve left enough to get the big bucket of chicken and one of those big bottles of Coke. That may help the attendance.

But then there are real friends.

I remember the day about 34 years ago when I met Mark. It was in front of a steakhouse in Tifton. We’ve never stopped being friends. He was the kind of person that when I met him, it seemed like we already knew each other.

Aside from my late brother, he is the only person who attended both of my weddings and was also there when we laid each of my parents to rest. I was in his only wedding and have been there for each other at both good and not-so-good times.

We will go for long periods of time without talking and then, we just pick up where we left off. I think that’s the key ingredient of good friendship. You never hit the stop button, you just press pause. When you start things back up, it goes off without a hitch.

The same is true for Joe. About 30 years ago, Joe and I went to a fancy prayer breakfast. Some guy, in an attempt at religion, got up and recited the words to the Diana Ross classic, "Reach Out and Touch" as a benediction.

It didn’t work.

Joe and I both had to grab our nice cloth napkins to muffle our laughter. It wasn’t a chuckle; it was a horselaugh. We laughed all the way from Atlanta to Macon.

There is hardly a time when Joe and I walk away from each other or close an email without reciting that last line.

"Make this world a better place ... if you can."

There are friends who have gone, like Robert. A sudden heart attack took him away a few years back. We had that same "pick up where you left off" kind of friendship. I look forward to the day when we can do that again.

I miss my brother, Dixon. We were just beginning to reach that stage where we were no longer little and big brothers, but were just brothers and friends. I hope he would be proud of his baby brother and friend, who thinks of him daily.

I have more friends, each with a unique relationship. We have things that make us laugh. There is always a special moment with friends that becomes the everlasting event that you re-live over and over again.

By the way, I have many real friends on Facebook, who are great encouragers, supporters and just good fellow travelers on the road to somewhere.

Come to think of it, I may need two chicken buckets and big Cokes. Bring your own napkin.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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