I first posted this several years ago. I am now 82. I came across it while surfing through my old posts, looking for fodder for a new poetry project. I thought it is worth reposting — with some editing.
Making friends is easier when you are young. The potentials are all around you — at school, in the neighborhood, your church, your teams. If you are lucky, some of those friends stay with you throughout your life.
Such is not necessarily the case as you get older, move, find a new job, get married. If you are lucky, you find new friends wherever you are. I was lucky for decades after I settled into a job and a community and joined organizations with like minded folks. For forty plus years, although I lived alone, I was rarely lonely. I had a group of women friends who gave my life the kinds of rich interactions described by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in this video. Watching the video stirred up in me profound feelings of loss; I left all of my friends behind when I moved to a new state to live with my family. I call it my “assisted living”, and there are great advantages for an 80 year old to live alongside kind and nurturing offspring.
But as wonderful as family can be, they are not my close friends — the five women (originally six) in the photo strip. For. 40 years, we shared events, feelings, frustrations, vacations; We all were without partners at the time (although some came and went, pretty much operating on the periphery of our female friendship).
The first photo shows us in our glory days. I was the oldest– in my mid-forties. The youngest was 10 years my junior. While our personal histories were different, we shared the common grounds of politics, agnosticism, irreverence toward authority, an appreciation of belly-laughs, and a need to have fun. We met when I ran a discussion group for single women.
Over the decades, the dynamics of our group changed, as one distanced herself, one (who often chose playing golf to hanging around with us) also fell off our radar.
Eventually there were only three of us to continue the friendship. And then I moved away. I still keep in touch with the two I left behind, but it’s not the same. No longer face-to-face, it’s more difficult to hold onto that feeling of intimate connection. Now one of the two is battling breast cancer. I recognize that change is a part of life, but there are some things I wish hadn’t changed.
I left my old life 20 years ago to become my mother’s caregiver. Ten years ago, I moved to live with family. Since I moved, I’ve made several efforts to find friends. I have made one close friend. Am I spoiled by the intimate and supportive close friendships I had in the past and so I am not as open as I once was?
Part of the truth is — while I want to have friends and to have some fun — I am tired of the effort it takes to find kindred spirits at this point in my life. At age 80, I am also physically tired, with aching knees and a non-fixable torn rotator cuff. I am resorting to trying the Rummikub player group at a local senior center. It was a game my former group of friends used to get together and play, armed with several bottles of wine. Lots of fun and laughter.
Is this what it’s like for many single women over 75 who find themselves severed from their former lives? I would like to start an older women’s discussion group (I was really into the consciousness raising groups of the 1970s). The challenge is to find some women with the same need. And senior centers around here don’t seem to be a place to find them.
There are so many things we don’t appreciate until we don’t have them any more. Close friends fall into that category.
Go and watch Tomlin and Fonda.