The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.
―Hubert H. Humphrey
Friends for 60+ years. Amazing!
When I found I had a long layover in San Francisco on my way to Bali, I called Sheila, a friend from high school who lives near the airport, and asked if we could get together. She did one better - called Polly, who lives nearby, and together they picked me up and we shared several wonderful hours. During that time, Polly encouraged us to attend our 55th high school reunion, coming up in September. Sheila and I were lukewarm.
Fast forward. Polly talked to Mary and Melody, two more good friends from junior high and high school. Mary cooked up a vision for the five of us to have a 2-night sleep-over at her country home, enjoying each other, and attending the reunion together on the second night. No one could resist - and so it happened.
Some things never change. Mary is still the organizing visionary, orchestrating our time together with the care of a great artist. Sheila, the creative problem solver, given the task of bringing wine and cheese, consulted friends who are experts, and brought the unusual, the memorable! Others of us who had further to travel, just got ourselves there.
These are deep, layered relationships: we'd known each others' parents and siblings. We'd stayed in touch over the years, but there was catching up to do. We knew each other when we were young and innocent. Who are we now?
Conversations picked up where they'd left off. The topics varied...the talk was lively, funny, engaging. Much laughter! We swam, sat in a hot tub, and burst into camp songs spontaneously. I hated to miss a thing when I left for a few minutes to take a jet lag nap.
The reunion itself was not nearly as fun as being with these dear friends. The next morning we shared experiences, observations, and snippets about people none of us could remember clearly. Together we pieced together memories. The most interesting observation was how differently people aged. Some seemed ancient, others quite unchanged. Those we were all happiest to see had stayed lively in spirit even as they aged.
I marvel in retrospect that we found each other as friends, way back, and have continued to feel close. These are solid people, with different kinds of lives, but shared values. We've not been spared difficulties. Three of us have been widowed, three have had cancer. The things that bind us are a deep interest in and caring for people, and a passion for learning.
Polly epitomized the learning. She carried around a little notebook and wrote down thoughts and books and movies anyone talked about. She asked questions to understand things more deeply. And, in doing so, helped us all.
I came away with 3 nuggets for aging energetically:
- Stay connected to the people you knew and loved in the past. Don't let them slip away. They are anchors.
- Care deeply about the people in your life.
- Keep learning.
- What long-time, dear friend would you like to be in touch with?
- When will you reach out?
- How can you appreciate someone in your current life even more?
- What do you love to learn? How do you keep learning?