Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Surrogate Son

This past week I've been involved with a music clinic for conductors. One of the participants was an unlikely friend: a local high school band director who has never passed a single student on to me for lessons, and whose grand plans of having me give master classes to her students are always incomplete. We don't socialize on any occasion other than music conferences. She's a good person, though, and fun to have as an acquaintance.

I was introduced to this director by an old girlfriend; they had been long friends, and while I was dating her we were often in the same location. During these visits, I got to know the director's husband. As one might expect of someone married to a band director who needs to direct people around all day, the husband is quiet and reserved. Very soft spoken. In our time together with the two couples, the women would talk about what they knew, leaving me to talk to the husband.

He and I formed a ready friendship, which lasted longer than the relationship did. Again, I don't see much of the husband and wife, on the order of once a year or less. But the husband and I always seem to slip right back into the easy talking, or more commonly the easy "not talking". I smile every time I think about the women talking and arguing about something, with the husband and I quietly talking in the background about boats or woodworking.

It was always nice to go to the bustling music educators conferences, filled with people I don't know, and find these two friendly faces. The husband especially always seemed happy to see me, as a friendly face in a sea of people who basically know his wife. It means a lot to me that he's so friendly to me. I guess when someone is that reserved with their feelings, it's a big deal to get even a small gesture.

Last year (I think), he was diagnosed with cancer. It was not a ferociously deadly variety, though he entered into treatment immediately. Speaking to his wife today, she mentioned she had just dropped him off at a hospital for an experimental drug treatment to make sure that it hadn't transfered to any other lymph nodes.

She told me that when she mentioned to her husband that she was spending all week with me at the clinic, her husband's response was, "Is there anything from around here we can give him?" Reflecting on this later, I wondered why someone I hadn't seen in a year, and with whom I've met, in total, probably less than 10 or 15 times, would be worrying about getting me something. It's not my birthday yet, and I'm fairly certain they don't even know when my birthday is.

And the more I thought about it, the more I got the feeling like they are proud of me. They're about the age of my parents, but have no children of their own. They always like hearing about what I'm doing. They're interested in seeing me do well. They're always telling me I don't spend enough time in contact with them. It's like having a tertiary set of parents.

In a strange way, it feels similar to when someone finds me romantically attractive. It's nice to be able to see how appealing I am through someone else's eyes. It's nice to know that people appreciate me for who I am and how I behave; a kind of validation, I suppose. It's also nice when those people aren't in my immediate family, and have no particularly pressing reason to show me anything other than simple friendliness.

And it's nice to have a friend who appreciates when you sit next to them and feel comfortable in the silence.

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