I’ve seen this admonition many times, and it was brought to mind yesterday as I met an old friend for lunch at Gray’s Cafeteria. Iris contacted me before we went to Florida and asked if we could get together at Gray’s; a date was picked and we put it on the calendar. Haven’t you discovered that it’s so easy to say, “Yes, let’s get together sometime, but unless we actually commit to a time, it doesn’t get done?”
Iris and I have been friends since our children were little, and she has a great-grandchild, so I think that qualifies us as old friends. Actually, you could say we’re pushing the age where we could be called “old friends,” but I’d be quick to point out that my friend is anything but old. You know what’s nice about old friends? We’re able to pick up as though we had just seen each other yesterday; Iris and I arrived at the same time, met in the parking lot, and were in conversation before we got in line. We had not seen each other for two years; way too long for friends who live in Martinsville and Indianapolis. Iris has five daughters, I have two sons; and they all have wonderful memories of the times they spent together. The warmth I felt while being with Iris was more than that coming from the fireplace at Gray’s; it came from being with an old, dear friend.
Later, Hubby and I went to our chiropractor, Dr. Mike, who knows that Doris and I are friends. I told him that we had spent ten days together in Florida and he asked, “How long have you been friends?” I said, “fifty years.” He was amazed, and not being old enough to have been friends for fifty years with someone, he found it “really something,” as he said. I told him we have not always lived in the same community, nor do we talk to each other every day, or feel committed to include each other in everything we do, but when we meet up, which now is pretty often, the bond of “best friends” is there. We could write a book about all the crazy things we’ve done. Doris claims that I owe her big time for all the skits and programs I’ve recruited her to do, and she’s probably right about that. Every now and then she says, “Jo, since you owe me, how about helping me with...?” How could I say “no,” when I’m indebted with my heart to this old friend?
Dr. Mike would really be amazed at how many old friends I have who date back even farther; say seventy years. I’m fortunate to have kept my friendships with former classmates, some as far back as kindergarten. Topping the list for closeness is my friend, Clarice, who has always said, “Josie, we have a bond that keeps us close, no matter where we are.” Clarice knew my mom and brothers; she knew all about us, the good and the bad. We’ve shared high points and great disappointments; we know which buttons to push to bring out a laugh, and we do laugh a lot; our hubbies just shake their heads, wondering “what now?” We tease each other, hug a lot, cry a lot; sometimes calling each other just to get the sadness and worry out. We never run out of things to talk about, sharing concerns about how we live out our faith in a world that is different from the one we grew up in. Clarice reads her Bible everyday and really prays and asks for guidance in all that she does. This Norwegian girl, who introduced me to her culture carries so many memories of our lives for these past 75 years, that I’m counting on her to be my memory when mine is gone. Oh, did I tell you she’s beautiful, and stays well preserved because she lives up in Minnesota and spends half of every year frozen, and eats lots of lefse.
Then there are the newer friends who feel like old ones because the connection is so strong, and it happens very quickly. When we moved to Owen County, leaving “old” friends behind, it was the bonding with new ones that made our lives complete. I can honestly say that the leaving behind of friends we made while living down there was so sad and painful that my friend of the heart, Nan, finally told me that I had to stay away for awhile, to make the break. I already knew that, and for once took someone’s advice. Did I make the break? No, I’ll never do that, but I do like living here again, picking up where we left off, and my Owen County friends are dearer than ever to me. So sometimes it is not the number of years that makes us “old” friends, but the unbreakable connection to the heart.
I’m fortunate to have so many friends, and those of you reading this who thought you were one, please know that you are, but they don’t give me a whole page for my column. I think of my friend Shirley, who makes me laugh, Marilyn, who is in the nursing home way too soon, Nancy, who keeps me level, Myrna, who keeps me on my toes, Bev and Bill, who love me the way I am, Gayle, who takes me “treasure” hunting, Mary S., who identifies so often with my column, and Hubby, who puts up with me, and keeps wondering if I’ll ever change.
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