Friends With Benefits


This week, I bring you the story about two people, two unlikely friends who have come together to enjoy each other’s company, for both opposite and converging reasons. They are a kind of modern day ‘Milo and Otis’, or perhaps ‘the Odd Couple’ without the ‘Odd’or all the arguing.

These two came together as friends in a gradual fashion. It all started with a combination of things. One was laid up with an injury. The other was looking for something to do. Throw in a mutual love of movies, opportunity, and cooperation, and suddenly, a blossoming friendship was created.

I am talking, of course, about my father and my oldest son, Alex. Two very different characters in some respects, yet also so alike. My father is a very soft-spoken man. He loves to sit and listen to just about anybody, is well respected, and walks softly. I don’t know of anybody who can say he’s crossed them. Alex is also more or less a quiet person, who has chosen a peaceful path in life, and has garnered along the way many accolades, academic and otherwise.

As grandfather and grandson, they have always gotten along. As you may know, Alex has autism, and for many years, was an enigma to most of our family…known about, but not known. And so, they peacefully co-existed, understood each other in an instinctive fashion, and respecting each other’s space. It was not uncommon to see these two together, one watching television, the other reading, not speaking, just being together. When they were done, Alex would say ‘Goodbye, grandpa.’, and go merrily on his way.

It wasn’t easy to enter Alex’s bubble, but my dad didn’t seem to see the need to intrude. Just being together was enough. That’s not to say that he wasn’t interested. It was just an instinctive gesture on his part. My father is not an intrusive or inquisitive person. This is perfect for Alex, because he abhors being asked too many things. For several years, this mutual détente carried on.

Last summer, things changed. My father needed surgery on his leg, and was mostly incapacitated. Alex, on the other hand, was looking for something to do with his grandpa. One day, while sitting together…apart… they got around to discussing the Lord of the Rings. My dad remembered it as his favorite book in high school. Alex remembered it both as a great book, and a great movie franchise. One thing led to another, and the two struck a deal: they would watch these movies together.

I know, it’s not such a big deal. Watching movies together is normally not a place to have great conversations. But if you knew Alex, then you would know he’s a walking encyclopedia about almost everything you can think of. If it’s been written about, and he’s interested, he’ll know just about everything there is to know about the subject. And, my dad is a listener. Putting these two in the same room, watching a movie, one listening, the other explaining every detail, ended up as some of the most precious time two people could spend together.

It has now become their regular Wednesday routine. Alex finishes school at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. My dad picks him up in North Bay, Alex makes them a grilled cheese sandwich, and together, they watch an action movie. I have grown to love those days, feeling good about the fact that two of my favorite people in the world are enjoying each other’s company. Two unlikely friends.

My parents will be leaving for Florida again in the fall, so their weekly movie get together will have to be put on hold for a while. Alex will Skype with his grandpa occasionally, but it just won’t be the same. They are already looking forward to next spring, making a list of movies to watch together. As William Shakespeare wrote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”  That’s how these two friends live. Gotta love it.

  1. jennypellett says:

    Your father sounds a wonderful man and Alex is a lucky lad to have such a sensitive Grandpa. He will benefit hugely from their friendship, as so, I think, will your whole family.

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