The challenges of a long distance friendship

Ron Mueck: Dead dad

I'm trying to be a friend for my friend in Minnesota; a better friend than his next door neighbor, but I'm not very successful.
His father just died. Indeed, the father had just turned 80, but still. Also, one of his sons suffers from school anxiety. I'm not sure what this is exactly, but it worries him, my friend, so it worries me.
When I suggest to FaceTime him, he says: no, maybe not, I'm a little down at them moment.
'Let me talk you up,' I counter, optimistically. If friendship isn't about forced optimism, I don't know what it is about.
We agree to FaceTime that night, at 9 o'clock my time (2 o'clock his time). When 9 o'clock comes, 9.30 looks better, so I email him if that's okay. He prefers to move our FT-date to late afternoon.
I stay up until 11.30 PM (I go to bed early these days, the late night doesn't do it for me anymore), and finally we 'meet', that is: on my iPhone, I'm looking at his face, or more specifically: his unshaven jaw. Also, I peer into his – unplucked – nostrils.
Maybe it is because he is driving at the same time.
Anyway, my friend looks unhappy. 'Sorry, I can't smile,' he says.
The 'FaceTime' we're having is frustrating. He keeps talking about how he worries about his son, whereas the son, as far as I can tell, is doing fine – under the circumstances. But he doesn't want to talk about other things that may be on his mind.
His father, for instance.
The next morning, I email him to tell him that I worry about him. I suggest we should write. Writing beats talking, if you know how to write.
But then, a few hours later, when I am in my car, he FaceTimes me again, to tell me how he appreciated my email. Now I can see his jaw is shaven. And he smiles. Then, he starts talking about his son again, and how he worries about him.
I interrupt to say that my battery is low and that my phone is going to die soon.
'Okay, we can talk for a minute,' he says.
The next moment my phone dies. Our FaceTime dies with it.
I wish we could write long emails to each other.

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