My Uncle Peter is sitting in the wicker chair across from me. He smiles up at me, a smile that drips with a long, heavy melancholy. His friend Tony has poured me a shot of expensive tequila and ordered a toast to good friends. We drink the smooth liquor down and I immediately cool off. Uncle Peter's phone rings.
He picks it up and has a short conversation before hanging up. His eyes have become watery. I ask him what's wrong before I realize it's a stupid question. He tells me he keeps expecting Larry's call. Apparently he doesn't have the heart to remove Larry from him phone.
Larry died last Wednesday. He was Uncle Peter's best friend for the last fifty years. He says they met sometime in the first grade and have spoken on the phone every day since. Uncle Peter visibly cringes whenever the phone rings, a stiff reminder that his friend is dead. I nearly lose it.
My brother Mark and I spent some serious time on the beach that day. After hearing that Uncle Peter's best friend died, we decided to join him on Fire Island. Mark and I were together most of that day, reminding me what it was like to be close to my brother. It was nice.
In a sense, I think Uncle Peter is lucky. He's lost his best friend, but his amazing affability and joviality has allowed him to accrue a lot of friends. The house he shares with five other people is packed with incredibly fun personalities who love to have a good time. Uncle Peter says it's been his best season on Fire Island ever. As we are sitting around the table, his friend Sanford has called three times. He misses Peter.
I'm reminded sometime during the day that life isn't about the things we manage to compile or the material things. It's about the relationships we form throughout our lives and how much they matter. I think if there was a scale to judge success based only on that, Uncle Peter is the most successful person I know. He is truly loved.