On March 11, 2020

Looking Back: Friends over the years

By Mary Ellen Shaw

When you get into your senior years you tend to spend quite a bit of time looking back.

When I take a look back at the friends I have made it covers over 70 years of friendships.  My friends seem to fit into categories: childhood, school days, work days and “new friends” who were acquired along the path to my senior status. They all have a cherished place in my life so hopefully my contact with everyone will last as long as I do!

There are many ways to keep in touch these days. Back “in the day” people had to go to a friend’s home to visit with them. Then landline telephones came along and you could “phone a friend.” I remember being told that some day we could see people as we talked to them on the phone. That seemed like science fiction. Now it’s a reality. Whether you prefer emails, texts, Skype, etc. there are many ways to maintain contact.  Each method of conversation has a time and a place that works best.

Betty is one of my long time friends. We met when I was six and she was 4.  Even though she now lives in both Rhode Island and Florida we still see one another and talk regularly. In fact we have a ritual of setting up a long distance phone chat about once a month. We pick a day and time when we don’t have any appointments and spend an hour or more catching up. I would say the time spent on current happenings versus past events is about 50/50. Nobody knows you as well as someone who has been a part of your life forever!

Grade school and high school friends will always be special because we spent as much time with them as we did our families. Together we learned to read and write. Later we struggled together as we figured out algebra and chemistry. But it wasn’t all serious. We also shared in the fun of school dances, activities and sporting events. Many of us were together from kindergarten through high school.

Then it was time to make college friends and gain our independence. We were “on our own” to get to classes on time, turn in our assignments when they were due and to be in our dorm rooms for the nightly bed check. Yes, you read that correctly. We had, a curfew! The nuns ran a tight ship at Trinity College in the ‘60s. I made some wonderful friends in college and most of us have remained connected all these years. We have gotten together several times and we still take time to write Christmas cards and update one another on our lives.

I have also stayed in touch with my work friends over the years. Some of them have been in my life for 50 years and we still get together a few times a year for coffee or lunch. I am very fortunate that we all enjoyed one another enough at work to continue our friendships in our retiree years. We definitely look back on life when we get together. If you are anywhere near us in a restaurant you will quickly learn that laughter will be heard. Of course, we are often laughing at ourselves but that can be a good thing!

Then there are the various friends who were acquired over the years. Some of those came into my life through my late cousin, Loyola. She started going out to breakfast once a week after daily Mass. If she visited with someone after church she would ask if they would like to join her for breakfast. The group grew as friends outside of the “church ladies” joined in.  There are currently seven of us who are part of a Thursday morning breakfast group.

For the past few years I have been meeting a group of classmates and some of their friends for coffee. Our large group takes over a long table in the hospital cafeteria. Who ever thought I would be going to the hospital for fun?

Experts in the art of aging well say that socialization is an important part of that process. I can definitely say that I am living by that rule. It never gets old looking back at the things you did with friends together.

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