Written By Ellen Ryan
Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things. ~ Paulo Coelho
A high point of my life, at age 65, was hearing my 97-year-old friend Naomi say, ”Oh, Ellen, you’re a wonderful kid.” I had edited her book of poems, which she was now giving away with delight.
In our age-stratified society, it is often difficult to make friends from other generations. And reaching the traditional retirement age did not prepare me for being thought of as younger. Surprise is one important aspect of friendship.
Another feature is shared experience and collaboration. In retirement, we meet former colleagues for coffee or for lunch – either in pairs or in small groups. We form friendships through book clubs, woodworking groups, and sports teams. We also connect through accompanying our children and later our grandchildren to their regular activities. We keep in touch with neighbours and often travel long distances to visit former neighbours. Sometimes we find good travel companions and arrange repeated trips with them.
One of my favourite activities with a friend is what I call “Walk ‘n’ Talk”.
It is easy to communicate when moving in nature, looking ahead. Minimal eye contact facilitates listening and embarking on difficult topics. The pumping of legs, stroll or quick march, creates a forward rhythm that energizes a conversation, even while gracing silent gaps. Breathing with trees – perhaps vistas – opens spaces in our hearts to show vulnerability. Acceptance, the universal currency of real friendship, flows readily.
We can have many friends
each in their special niche
on our friendship wall
one for long walks in retirement
one for evening exercise
brisk walks at lunch on workdays
one who spurs creativity
writing or quilting or folk dancing buddy
work-mate, classmate, sailing mate
an in-law who helps us
understand our spouse
one for laughs at the cottage
a nudge to bend, or stand up for rights
to set goals or slow down
inspiring us to be our better selves
one who listens in the night
exchanges stories, remembers our best
even reminding us of them
one who sits with us in grief
in confusion, holds our hand
in crisis, rallies all our friends
Here’s to our friends – longtime or new, far or near, still living or dead – and to our courage to continue reaching out, listening, and nurturing.
This blog follows up on Loretta Jaunzarin’s February blog entitled Spirit of Late Life Friendships. See the useful links to other resources there.