OPINION COLUMNS

Finding, friending and fleeing

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, January 24, 2015
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Galen was one of the most talented humans I have ever known.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

We met when a couple from our church invited a few of the “new” folks over for supper. He and Pat, like my wife and I, were both newlyweds and newcomers.

For some reason I wasn’t feeling too sociable that night, so as the conversation dragged on I edged away and began wandering the house. In the front parlor, I found an old guitar sitting over in a corner, sat down and picked it up.

They walked past just as I picked the “deedle-de-de-de-de-de-de-de” from the opening of “Dueling Banjos.” He stopped, pointed at me and said, “You sit right there. I’m goin’ to get my banjo!”

He and his wife drove 12 miles out into the country, grabbed the banjo and came back. We played until the family that had invited us over came in with their kids in pajamas and asked us to leave so they could go to sleep.

We started picking together, formed a band, had a great time. He was a tall, frizzy-red-headed/bald-headed guy, as country as they come. He made a banjo during that time. He could also paint, draw, sculpt, cook and who-knows-what-else.

They moved away about the same time we did, and we lost touch.

A few years ago, I decided to find him through the Internet.

When I Googled him, I learned that one of Microsoft’s top researchers has the same name. He’s published papers with titles like “VM-Based Shared Memory on Low-Latency, Remote-Memory-Access Networks.” (I didn’t make that up. I couldn’t have.)

I knew that wasn’t him.

Finally I put the word “bluegrass” after his name and sure enough, I found him. I contacted him through Facebook, and we renewed a cherished friendship.

And, after a couple weeks of catching up, we really didn’t have much more to say.

We’re glad to know we’re alive and well. I wish I’d had the privilege of living near him all these years, but life took us elsewhere, and we bloomed where it planted us. We’re happy for each other.

This story illustrates the best and worst of social media.

At its best, it helps us find these people who were lost jewels in our lives. A decade earlier, it would have taken a detective to find this guy. I’m grateful for the digital miracle that made it easy to track him down.

But the sad reality is, I can’t keep up with him – or thousands of others – on a day-to-day basis. Nor can he, or those thousands, keep up with me.

I realize I’m probably coming at Facebook all wrong. I know millions of people just dip their toes into it for a few minutes each day and move on. I can’t. I dive in and quickly get swept away.

Obsessive-compulsive thoroughness and Facebook are a bad, bad combination.

The first time I went there, my jaw dropped. People just kept rolling. Hundreds of them – old high school friends, guys I was in Boy Scouts with, folks I knew from places I’ve lived, people from the newspaper business, from church, from school, my parents’ friends, my kids’ friends.

Like the mirrors on both sides at the barber shop – it never ends. It’s a Facebook infinity dream-turned-nightmare. My life passed before my eyes.

I fled, and I rarely go back. I dare not.

I got an email today that said one of my old high school buddies was having a birthday. I wished him happy birthday. I’d heard he was sick and wished him good health.

He answered right away, thanked me for the good wishes and assured me he’s better. I’m grateful for that.

That’s about as far as I care, or dare, to go.

I’m pretty sure he’s OK with that.

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Messenger.

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