Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Connected by Phone: Auld Lang Syne

Holidays celebrate connection, friendship, and the beauty of community. When we receive notes or calls from true friends we haven’t seen in years, they feel suddenly closer. The years collapse. We marvel that the friendship has weathered so many changes and challenges. We may recall how and why we became friends in the first place, and the answer might seem far away and tinged with wonder.

About forty years ago, I was an aspiring screenwriter. I had attended workshops, read books, and collected sample scripts. I had paid a man from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to guide my first attempt. When he was pleased, he transferred me to a friend of his, a Hollywood producer, to see if he could find me a way into the business. We were a strange coupling, the producer and I. A few years older than I and recently divorced, he had a background of CBS and Playboy, producing a feature film, shorts, original sports DVDs through his own company, and even a popular TV series. He could tell stories involving his friends whose names I recognized from entertainment history. Nothing in our backgrounds matched. He was in California. I was in Colorado. I was a school teacher/mom/wife who had directed high school plays and taught college courses. We began comparing notes long distance. I was afraid my voice would shake when I talked to him, but he was interested in reading my work.

Friendships are forged for many reasons—similar interests, proximity, complementary opposites, etc. We began by talking about my script, which he didn’t like much, and then another script he liked much better, and then we worked together on a romantic screenplay. We made it to a final reading at Disney with a young adult script. He registered my works with the Writers’ Guild and shopped them around, but we didn’t make money. I wrote and wrote and wrote—sometimes pilots he requested, sometimes my own novels. I helped him create two biographical documentaries that he never had a chance to see on the big screen. He didn’t like texts and found email cumbersome. So how did we sustain a 40-year friendship? We talked.

We met only once when he was in Denver. He brought me a bottle of champagne to celebrate our collaboration. The champagne had gone bad, and my husband secretly laughed that anyone could gift sour champagne, but I appreciated the idea and was glad my friend wasn’t there when we popped the cork. The rest of the forty years, we talked by phone—up to twice a week at times. We shared values. We enjoyed the companionship. Our conversations strayed to politics, his Hollywood stories, his health, my work life, my novels, other authors, other books, his Navy stories, his love who was tragically killed, and his exasperation at not being able to afford the kind of staff he had once hired. For many years, he always had a good story joke for me or my husband. In later years, the jokes faded. We talked more and worked less.

Some of his calls weren’t as stimulating as others. His life was narrowing. After six brutal years of selfless labor, he didn’t want to degrade what he saw as his standards of production, even though his final films weren’t attracting the kind of enthusiasm he had expected. His industry friends were retired or deceased. And then, after a film opening cancelled by COVID, he was terribly ill. He suffered several compromising medical conditions simultaneously.

Perhaps one day I’ll find out what finally killed a man who seemed indomitable and when, precisely, he died. He could be on a ventilator somewhere. I don’t know for sure. He lived alone, so I requested a welfare check when he was too ill to be comprehensible on the phone. Not being family or able to access records or an obituary, I don’t know how that story ended. But I know friendship isn’t restricted to face-to-face relationships or sexual innuendos or even business deals. Deep friendships can be born when two minds meet—even when it’s by telephone. May we all cherish true friendships in the coming year. We need them.

One comment on “Connected by Phone: Auld Lang Syne

  1. Just a note: One of his family members notified me that my telephone friend had, indeed, been on a ventilator with multiple caregivers since the welfare check and died on January 3, 2023. He is missed.

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