Some friends you see every day, some flit in and flit out of your life and some last for years even if you rarely meet them. I just spent a weekend with the latter group: friends I made in college 40 plus years ago but rarely meet now. We met so long ago the college has had three name changes from the Regional Technical College to Galway & Mayo Institute of Technology to its current status as the Atlantic Technological University. Some within the group have also changed their names, their addresses, their careers and even countries. We have all had our share of births, deaths and marriages.

We haven’t been together for so many years that I went on Facebook to try and see what one of the men now looked like. Of the three men I found with the same name and in the right region, two were too young and the third had the look of someone you’d meet in a dark alley buying or selling something illegal. Thankfully my friend was not on Facebook and was easily recognisable as an older version of his student days.

Reunions with old friends can go two ways, but it never occurred to me that it was going to be anything but a great weekend. Why? Because the friendships were based on a good foundation all those years ago.

Common ground

The foundation of most friendships is a shared interest or activity. It could be because we have children the same age, because we play sports together or go to the same college. This shared interest gives us something to chat about initially. These early chats develop into longer conversations on a variety of topics. This broadening of the topics gives us a chance to get to know each other better and decide if we want their friendship in our lives. I mean the person you play football with might be great craic, but as you get to know them, they reveal their racism and you know it’s time to move on.

Real friendships don’t have to have an expiration date.

Friends give emotional support in good times and bad. Back in my student days this gang were with me through the trials and tribulations of dating and importantly, during breakups. They also stood there as John and I made our marriage vows and those that could were there at his funeral.

Reeling in the years

As we sat there together chatting that first evening, the hotel receptionist remarked that we certainly knew how to have the craic based on all the laughing. We’ve enjoyed many good times together and are well able to give and take a bit of slagging. We all made an eejit of ourselves at one time or another, thankfully before mobile phones were there to record us. Now we slag each other over incidents that we thought were life-changing (they rarely were) and some of our more interesting dating choices.

Our dancing may be a little less energetic, but we still gave it wellie on the dance floor that weekend. Being with people that you can dance with like no one is watching- because those that are watching don’t judge you- makes for a great night. And a sore body in the morning.

The original group now includes wives and husbands and the expansion has brought more friendships and opportunities. As we all sat in the hotel lobby on the final morning it was commented on that we’ve gone from trying to scrape together the price of a pint to ordering lattes and americanos. We’ve gone from worrying if we can pay the rent to moaning about the rent our children pay and from dreams of promotion to what we’ll do in retirement.

We parted with the promise to meet again next year. Who knows if we will or if it will be another few years. Either way, I have no doubt we will again enjoy the craic and camaraderie. Real friendships don’t have to have an expiration date.