BY PATTYL APOSHIAN KASPARIAN
Liza. Sako. Alan. Ara. The list goes on. We all live in Southern California– some married, some single. Some soccer moms. Some superstars. We’ve changed addresses, jobs and even hair styles. We have different lifestyles, sophistications, accreditations, titles and careers. Yet, we are friends forever.
There is a bond so mature and so rooted that even 15 years of new memories and additional friends can’t erode. Some experiences and friendship just don’t disappear.
At 18, I signed up for the only trip my parents would allow me to participate in without a parent chaperone—the 1997 AYF World Jamboree in Armenia. It was my opportunity to savor the pleasures of irresponsibility and let loose. No concern to strengthen my moral backbone or second thought to financial wherewithal. I was not responsible for anyone or to anyone. At that time, I thought my trip was just an entertaining getaway to escape the routine summer life in L.A.
Years later, I comprehended the true importance of spending a month with 50 of my AYF brothers and sisters.
After an incredible experience, we came back to mainstream reality but promised to keep the same energy alive in L.A. Best friends forever, right? Well –life took over. College, graduate school, marriage, kids. You know the story. I chose to maintain close ties with several of my travel companions—some daily, others annually.
Fast forward 15 years.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an individual in possession of a vast fortune must want a newer, younger companion. You know the archetype: a flashy, high-maintenance former beauty contestant with a younger, cooler contact list. Same goes with friends. Who’s this year’s model?
With every phase in our lives, we meet new people—classmates, colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends. We select the best of the best and form a new immediate circle. We dine at the hippest restaurants and toast our perfect life—or so it is said– with expensive champagne. It’s the chosen circle also known as this year’s model.
And then, when you least expect it, you’re hit with a hard reality check. Recently, the extended Armenian Cultural Foundation family lost a devoted and loved friend. Significantly, my AYF jamboree friend lost his father. As hundreds of mourners collected to pay their respects for Kevork Aslanian, Hayrig, I was emotionally drained as I saw a great majority of my AYF Jamboree friends from 15 years ago present to support our older brother, Sako Aslanian. More than 500 mourners stood outside St. Garabed Church in the arctic cold to bid farewell to a loved father of three and a friend to many. I remained immobile but a whirlpool of emotions stirred inside. I watched as mourners hugged one another and wiped back tears. More family and friends stood across the street as the casket delicately wrapped in the bright red party flag was taken away.
I knew Hayrig as a humble and happy man—a man who often avoided the limelight. I never sat in meetings with him, but he was the first to greet me at any event. He was cherished in many circles as a generous, devoted and ethnocentric man. More importantly, he went above and beyond to raise and support his family—giving me a true friend for life.
Some people are born lucky. Others discover luck throughout their lives. I have not experienced either one—rather, I have been blessed with the right circle of friends. Better yet, I have had the opportunity to experience the feeling of belonging that only comes from being a part of an organization that treasures and respects its most valued assets—one another.
There’s no way we will get the summer of 1997 back. Those days are over but the residual is seen, felt and experienced every day. I am confident that my Armenian Cultural Foundation friends will be at my side on the darkest of days. We are all guilty of moving on—changing up to this year’s model. After all, life’s helm often takes you where you never thought you’d go. However, knowing that my base is rooted amongst the most genuine of people who share the same values and vision is an unparalleled feeling.
This article is dedicated to Kevork Aslanian, Hayrig, and all our fathers and mothers who made the right choice with great sacrifice to secure our future.