How many times have I heard seniors say, “I’ve known her (him, them), for at least forty years. Or… “Can you believe it? She was my bridesmaid, and my husband and I will celebrate our fiftieth.” People of a certain age seem to hold the prevailing attitude that having a holdover friend from long ago beats the current competition. In fact, a book that followed the lives of four schoolgirl friends still meeting after many years earned best seller status!
That’s nice, though I’m not exactly sure why. Do old friends equal best friends? As we age, maybe we revert to a rose colored past putting a gloss on those halcyon days when all things were preferable. Old buddies mirrored our youthful selves, sort of an early thumbs up that “You’re o.k.; I’m o.k.” Those were the days…simpler, straight-forward; what’s not to like about friends just like us? We cling to a past of first love and budding intellect before things got scattered, messy and sometimes disappointing. Ditto for people.
My longtime friend, Sue, always reminisced, “Evie, we went to grammar school, high school and college together, and I’ve been at both your weddings! Not many people can say that!” A grade apart, our lives weren’t lived in tandem, but rather diverged, re-touched at—often long—intervals. Sue was “of” my life, though rarely “in” it during these last decades. When she was wheel-chair bound after a broken hip, we remained phone “confidantes,” laughter, as always, cementing our togetherness. After Sue’s incapacitating stroke, I managed to visit on the day before she died. And I drew a small smile from her one last time. A cherished old friend!
In contrast, about ten years ago, my “best friend” from sixth grade firmly wrote, “I always answer my emails!” Did that mean that if I no longer contacted her….? It did! Haven’t heard a word from her since.
Happily, during this same past decade, most of my friends are new. I love it. I adore them. I count myself truly fortunate to be welcomed by a grand group of both older and younger women whom I meet daily in aerobic dance and step classes. “The only reason we exercise,” goes our mantra, “is to have coffee together afterwards!”
I have no history with them. Our past paths never crossed. But even as a widow, I’m invited to couples’ dinners and celebrations, backyards and posh soirees. And I’ve found fun ways to reciprocate. We’ve traveled with a small group within the group, share goodies at different homes for Valentine’s Day, birthdays or for no reason at all. A twenty-years-my-junior member introduced me to sushi, the eldest invites me to use her late husband’s opera ticket; a few unique ties occurred just because we clicked!
These add to a few grammar school friends from ages ago who have even traveled for mini reunions. Surprisingly, I’ve rekindled a special bond with my very first crush—there was something “there” after all. And yes, his wife has been most welcoming.
Experts list a social life as essential for healthy aging. So, along with a welcome ties to the past, I’m especially blessed to currently revolve within the orbit of a gracious, supportive and interesting cast, the late-life new friends who people my final scenes and always make me feel like a star.