Milo has gotten fat.

Of course, our vet does not put it this way. Milo’s veterinarian is sensitive and well-informed. He discusses the potential for joint stiffness and the possible treatments and their various advantages and disadvantages and the fact that none of the medications available are as effective as simply losing the nine pounds (nine pounds!) that Milo has gained since his last appointment.

Milo wasn’t buying it, I could tell. I was having a hard time believing it myself. When I look at Milo, I still see the svelte puppy I adopted from the pound four years ago. I was telling this to my friend Andy. Andy was sympathetic. Andy has also had a few pounds slip on while he wasn’t looking.

“He’s not fat!” Andy said. “I think he looks great. You look great, don’t you Milo?”

Andy is my oldest friend and I’d invited him over for dinner, but all this talk of unnoticed weight gain and preventable health consequences had diminished his appetite and we had a lot of uneaten lasagna sitting in the pan. Milo lay sleeping happily at the feet of his new ally while Andy refused a second piece of lasagna.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a lot fatter than I think I am,” Andy announced.

Andy is the friend who has seen me through every major life change. I have not had a mad scheme since high school that he was not privy to. We discussed my latest escapades: going back to school at middle-age, teaching for the first time, the end of my romantic relationship, the loss of my cat Lucy. We talked about the changes in his family and mine. It’s good to have a friend like Andy.

Andy and I can go for weeks or even a couple months at a time without talking; but I know he will call if he needs me and I know I can always call him. At this point in my life, there are people who know me as a person who is one thing or does another, but very few who have seen me through all my metamorphoses— in and out of marriage and relationships, in different careers and at different addresses. Andy knows the person at the center of all these different personas and is never surprised by whatever change occurs.

Back in my farmhouse after a year away, I am looking to lighten the load, make room for new books and new art and new ideas. I looked at my bookshelves despairingly— stacks of yearbooks and family genealogy— knowing that I will never part with as much as I hope I will.

I dragged out two high school yearbooks which I could not remember looking at in decades. I saw the photos of girls with strangely flipped-back hair and enormous glasses. I saw teachers who were so much younger than I am today dressed in polyester and wearing muttonchops. I read inscriptions from people who promised to be my friend through thick and thin and noticed that Andy hadn’t signed my yearbook. Typical, I thought. He couldn’t be bothered to write in my yearbook so he just stayed around to be my friend for the next three decades.

“I must be old,” I commented.

“You’re getting old,” Andy said, “but you’re not old yet.”

Milo nudged Andy’s hand and got some more petting. Milo and I both think it’s a good thing to have a friend like Andy who sees us for what we are.

Till next time,

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