LP and I got our first home computer in September, 1996. It was a Macintosh Performa. An old friend worked for Compuserve at that time and gave us a free business account, so we were on the internet as quickly as you could plug in a phone line. At that time, Compuserve had these special interest forums to join (well, they still do through AOL on the web, but it's not the same,) and that was how we first made friends on what was swiftly turning into the World Wide Web. I joined several forums, including a neat music one populated by some DJs and music programmers, but the one at which I spent most of my online time was the Poetry Forum. LP joined it first, and made a few friends, but I really found a niche there.
I learned more about reading poetry than about writing it. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of several truly talented poets, American and British, both serious and humorous, who taught me a great deal about the art and science of poetry-writing. Their first lesson was always to read more, take in a variety of forms and styles, and let the writing come as it would. They taught me that too many people think the art of self-expression follows on the heels of emotion, when so often, the opposite is true.
But this isn't about that. At Compuserve, people could do an early form of chatting with each other in the bottom half of the forum screen, and, because of an odd sychronicity with mutual acquaintances, I began what would become a lasting friendship; first through that chat window, and later with other forms of chat, email, and the telephone.
This sometimes deep and always intriguing friendship began to develop about 18 months after I first started at the poetry forum, and was, oddly enough, formed because we both wanted to straighten out a misunderstanding about the relationship between our mutual friends. He was irritated, I felt maligned, we argued, then eventually we let the thing go its own way without our interference. And we've been friends ever since, though that other relationship is long dead and buried.
At first I assumed that someday our physical paths would cross, that we'd meet and make friends in person as easily as we'd done online. Back then, people were more skeptical of meeting online friends, but I've always taken the stance that we're all the people online, at least most of them, and most of us are just fine. Over the past several years, I've met about twenty people that I first knew online. But my old friend and I have never done so, and I'm much less certain that we ever will. It's perfectly all right, though. Friendships take many more forms these days than they did in the past. They're good things to have, however we have them.
Our children were very young then, and I wasn't even finished giving birth to all mine. Now several of them are young adults. I've moved four times; he's in the same house. He's changed jobs a couple of times. At one point he misunderstood something I told him, and we didn't communicate for awhile. But that worked itself out. There are times when we don't talk for a few months, and then we have fast and furious communication for awhile. Sometimes I wish he was my real big brother, and now and then I have varying other thoughts and wishes, in those idle, "what if" sorts of moments. Mostly, I'm just glad that the internet has allowed us to stay in touch and keep up with each other all this time.
We've had several common experiences related to age, interests, circumstance. I remember when he got reading glasses several years ago, and thought of him last winter when I got mine. He's also the person who told me all about reel mowers when I moved to New Jersey eight years ago and first faced the prospect of cutting my own grass. I'm so happy to have never had to deal with those awful gas motor things. Also, we've both weathered some difficult periods with our childrens' teen angst, and come out of them relatively unscathed, though I still have a few years to go with my three boys!
He was 38 when we became real friends eleven-plus years ago; young and enthusiastic and handsome and strong. Today he turns 50, and so, though less young, still enthusiastic, handsome and strong. We've both been through many personal challenges over the years; the kind that show on your face and in your voice and speech, you know? But in his face is still the mark of kindness, humor, intelligence and sensuality. In his voice there is still the clear resonance of thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. I'm happy we got to know each other and very happy we're still friends after all these years.
Buon compleanno a mio fratello maggiore!! And, roughly, spero che la seconda metà della vostra vita contenga tanta soddisfazione come la prima metà ha avuta. I bet there was a quicker way to say that, but we both agree that Italian is a delight to the tongue, so why rush it?