Throughout our time on earth we enter different phases. We meet hundreds of people. If we move from one community, country or one state to another we know people of varied cultures and beliefs. We broaden understanding, and we enrich our own perspectives.
These days fraught with angst and disrespect, it is vital that we nurture our friendships and keep those whom we love close to us, even if our political views vary. How sad to learn of friendships that dissolve simply because we favor candidates of the opposing party.
We live in a free country. The liberty we cherish has not come easily. A few weeks ago marked the 77th Anniversary of D-Day. I remember it as a little girl of six. War had been the epicenter of our existence. Every child knew about rationing. We had cousins or uncles, brothers or fathers who were fighting in WWII. We saw our parents cringe when they received a long distance phone call. We carried bundles of newspapers in red wagons to our school paper drives. Every empty tin can was flattened for the war effort.
We never wasted food, nor did we expect lavish gifts at Christmas. Our parents taught us to love our flag and our country, to have good manners and to respect our elders. We learned the Golden Rule. We went to church regularly. We were punished if we talked back or misbehaved. My father insisted that we eat everything on our plates, and if we didn’t he insisted mother save it for the next meal. Daddy was the 8th child of immigrant Icelandic parents who had ten children and lived on a tiny potato farm in Wisconsin without electricity or running water. He knew occasional hunger, and he reminded us often of “the starving children in Europe.”
As an Octogenarian I am proud to remember the Greatest Generation, named for the thousands of soldiers who fought and died to keep us free in WWII. (Our forever friend Bill in Maine is nearly 98, a marvelous man who survived the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.) My sister refers to us as “members of The Golden Generation. We came of age when the GNP did nothing but go up, up, up, and the country did not have the inner divisiveness it has today.”
Although “dailiness seemed much simpler then,” as my sister says, my fervent prayer is that our progeny will unite and create a country that values the sacrifices made since the founding of our beloved USA…and that they, too, cherish the privilege of living here. Hopefully this will happen sooner rather than later.
Without families to love and nurture youngsters there are pitfalls. Kudos to those who adopt children and give them happy healthy lives and relatives who step in to fill roles when needed. I adore being a grammy of nine and great grandmother of two. Even though all are scattered around the USA, we try to keep lifelines secure and communication good. Mostly this works.
Years ago, when we lived in Connecticut, one of my closest friends from Mississippi told me, “When we don’t have family near us, dear friends become family.” She was right, and I am delighted that she and her husband are visiting us in July! These bonds of friendship are forever tight.
How gratifying to reflect on eight plus decades of a richly blessed life, and to remember special friends…..starting with favorite “sandbox” playmates…..one of whom lives at another retirement facility in Richmond. She now has advanced dementia. Having not seen her since Covid, I miss our happy times together. Occasionally her son and I catch up. This feels good. My two best college friends and I exchange periodic emails. I am also connected to a group of junior high and high school women via Zoom. It began during Covid and was initiated by one gal living in the UK. Energizing to gather twice a month and talk about everything under the sun! We don’t change, we just get better!
We all fuss about the nasty stuff that surfaces on the internet: the bullying, the political slams, the ugly attacks on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc,. Maybe it is time to celebrate the POSITIVES of technology in today’s world. Covid was a horrible time for so many families. Prolonged separation from loved ones. The hardest hit were those living alone or residents of hospitals, rehabs and retirement homes. I watched my husband’s decline into dementia. He was merely one of millions similarly affected. But at least we had phone and Facetime conversations with our kids, relieving the isolation of quarantine.
Once upon a time I read that if each of us can look back at our lives and count our forever friends, we are lucky to have five or six. If we are abundantly blessed, as I believe I am, I can honestly say that my numbers are higher. Perhaps it is due to all the corporate moves John and I made. Perhaps it is because I was taught that if you give, you will receive. I view friendship as circular. As a child I learned from my parents, “As ye sow so shall ye reap.” Perhaps the generation of my youth was receptive to that biblical phrase. Perhaps the fact that as a married woman our families were not near.
For the last thirty-one years we have lived in one city which has become our happy ever after “home.”. When we arrived from Connecticut in 1990 I felt as if I had been transported to a different planet. Suddenly I was living in the capital of the Old South, where geneology, family connections and heritage were stressed. I was a 52 year old Yankee born in Ohio! I knew that I had to be myself….for better or worse. Pretending to be someone different is anathema.
I will always treasure the outreach by the lovely lady whose husband hired John. Having grown up in Cincinnati, she understood the difficulty of melding into this new city. She mentored me, invited me to belong to a group of dedicated women who benefited Theater Virginia. She and her husband invited us to dinner, traveled with us and gently introduced me to her own friends. When she died this past winter, I was sad and will always cherish the love that we shared for each other. Through her, we met an exceptional couple who mean the world to us….now this dear friend is a widow and an inspiration to me in so many ways. Even with extensive personal responsibilities she finds time to nurture her close friends …genuinely.
Forever friends are found all over. Churches, neighborhoods, volunteerism, schools, participating in worthy causes are marvelous sources. If we look. How lucky I am to have found wonderful friends in each venue. Comforting and enriching. I adore keeping close to my “Soeur du Coeur” now living in Florida. We met shortly after John and I were married while she and her husband, one of John’s college roommates were dating. At one point they lived in the same Connecticut town….we counseled each other through our children’s teen years, and we celebrated our 60tieth birthdays by traveling to Italy and London together….she and I are not on the same political wave length, but nothing deters our affection for each other.
Moving to Cedarfield four years ago opened new doors. The common thread is moving here voluntarily so as to relieve families of responsibility and worry. I admire those who left long time homes in other cities to start over in their seventies. How blessed I am to have caring neighbors who know John’s story and support me in any way. That is special….forever friends from elsewhere do the same.
In closing, allow me to urge and encourage all younger readers to cultivate and nurture forever friends. As you age and life throws you curve balls, you will be infinitely grateful. The test of time is indescribable. The investment in one who cares for you and for whom you care is endless. An hour here, an email or phone call there, well, never underestimate the value.
My mother’s sage words “make new friends, but keep the old ones” echo frequently in my ears. Wherever you live, you will find wonderful people in every generation.
And by all means, accept each other as we are…look for core values. Avoid delving into controversial social issues. Listen to each other’s life experiences as they frame a portrait. We may find that some friendships are worth the effort, while others are not. Yet throughout the process, we learn, we grow and we become, hopefully, better: kinder, more considerate and understanding friends…..hence, better people.
To quote Maya Angelo: “I’ve learned that people will forget what your said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”