Group dynamics are a strange and unpredictable beast. Ever notice that no matter where you are, there are always the same people? The trouble maker, the idiot, and the bad takes guy just to name a few. In social groups of friends, there’s the dependable one, the flake, the outdoorsman and the glue that keeps it all together and makes sure everyone stays in touch. But what happens when you lose your glue?
Recently a good buddy of mine, Ben, our group’s glue (the one that holds it all together), moved away. It was a long process. He told us about a year in advance that he’d be moving in the near future. He and his girlfriend were going out west for a new chapter in life and to make more money. It’s funny, you don’t really think of things as urgent until they are. I knew the day would come when this became reality, but it seemed so far off that I never really paid attention because my good buddy was always there for me. Until he wasn’t.
I met Ben by chance through another friend of mine. Ever meet someone you instantly click with? Someone that you know you’ll immediately be friends with? That was Ben. They were looking for more people for their hockey team and I was that people. What really sold me was the promise that they drink after every game. It became a ritual and a rite of passage for anyone new joining. It could be 80 degrees or 10 degrees, rain, snow or sunshine, and we’d be out there. The best bonds of friendship are always forged around commonalities.
Ben was truly like the goddamn mayor. Everyone knew him, and he knew everybody. He was the captain of our beer league team and a vocal advocate for local change. The type of guy that if you met him once, he was your friend. He’d open his house and home and was always quick to throw you a beer (the good kind too) along with a plate of food.
You get to be the glue of the group not by delegation but by action. Ben is a mover and a shaker to the core, so he always coordinated our group activities. From pond hockey, to nights at the brew pub, to sitting on his amazing deck with a panoramic view of the city, Ben was one who enjoyed people and people sure enjoyed him. He was the one that always had your back if a beer league fight got out of hand. He’d welcome newcomers to the group and make sure you were always given a seat at the table. We’ve spent many drunken nights together talking about things too real to be talking about under the influence, which is generally the best kind of drunk talk.
As the time for his departure came closer, things became more real. I started to think, “this is the last time we go to X with Ben until he heads out.” Things that were a routine staple seemed to have more gravity and meaning. We expect to always have equilibrium, but life is life. This really goes with anyone these days, but it is especially deep when it’s your group’s glue. It’s no longer the rule but rather the exception that people buy a home and stay there for many years. If it’s any reflection on his character, his going away party had the bar at capacity with people out the door (and of course we got him drunk).
When you lose your group’s glue, there really isn’t a whole lot you can do. This person is irreplaceable, and really the only thing you can do is keep moving and hope people step up to the plate. Our new hockey team captain (who’s another great guy) is keeping Ben’s seat warm as he plans a move back in the next few years. But we’ll see. We’ll be friends for life, and there’s already plans in the works to head out West to visit. All good things come to an end. It is a fact. For every ebb, there is a flow, a yin to a yang and nothing lasts forever (even cold November rain)..
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