Good Friends

 

 

The problem with old people is that they have a habit of dying.

And the problem with me is that I know this, but I keep loving old people.

~~

Last time I checked, roughly half of my close friends were over eighty.

I’m decades younger myself, but from hanging out with these friends, eighty has come to seem positively young to me. Not to mention fun.

So I don’t temper my naughty jokes because a person is eighty or ninety.

I only realize that I’ve referred to octogenarian Jane as “Kiddo” or to Muriel as “my dear girl” if someone else points it out.

They are my pals. Jane, Muriel, Mae, Marion, Merle are among my closest.  Harry, Mr. Smith, Henry, Bryan were also my pals. My mother, Louise, most of all.

I love them. I loved them.

Elderly people make the best friends and I love being in their company.

Which makes The Grim Reaper my big enemy.

I find myself wanting to fight off The Grim One, wrestle him to the ground, or at least tell him to take a hike.

~~

Old people speak their mind.

“I’m not elderly. I’m old!” says my 80-something friend. “It’s okay to use the word. I don’t mind.” I can almost hear her shrug into the phone.

It’s as if being candid is not an option at this stage in their lives, but mandatory. After all, with a relatively short time left on the earth, who has the time to lie?

Yet they have also learned to temper their frank assessments with grace. At least the old people that I love do.

They have a way of passing on affection with criticism, of pointing out the error of my ways without drawing blood.

Sometimes, it’s delivered in an observation so astutely phrased, it makes me want to rise above my knuckle-headed ideas about how to solve a problem.

~~

“With your manner, Cynthia, I just know you could manage to get the point across without causing hurt”.

Gosh, that’s diplomatic.

“Have you ever thought that this person may just be very shy and intimidated by all your qualifications?”

Well no, I hadn’t thought of that. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll have to review my harsh assessment of that person we were just discussing….

Offering criticism in such a positive way is a skill you can learn in school or in the great learning-place of life. Most of my elderly friends have learned at the latter, and that makes them experts.

~~

Elderly people have tons of insight to share, if you’re willing to listen.

It may take a little time. They may have to insert a story from long ago, a memory of something or someone that helped them learn an important life lesson.

“I remember when…”

The moment you hear these words, you may think “Here goes another long story… how much time do I have?”

But chances are, whatever I’m about to learn is more than worth my time.

Elderly people keep in touch, sensing when you need them to call and make you laugh at life’s travails.

One moment I’m howling with pain, a long-term gift from a car accident. But minutes later, the phone rings and I’m howling with laughter.

It’s one of my old friends, telling me a dirty joke, knowing that I need to laugh.

~~

When I reconsider, I think what I’m trying to say is that my elderly friends are wise and kind people. And that I’m blessed to have their friendship.

~~

But, there is still that problem: the fact that they tend to die.

I should temper that blanket statement with this explanation: It’s not that they necessarily want to.

Some, though barely mobile, still love life. They love to do things, to hang out with their friends, to go shopping, to share a good joke. They’d like to stick around much longer. 

But some people, it’s true, simply want to die. I had one such friend.

He was ill, with no improvement in sight. He depended on others to take him around, sometimes even to get from one room to another. He couldn’t enjoy the activities that gave him pleasure.

In some cases, there’s no-one left who shares the person’s memories. No-one to remember the people they grew up with, the times they lived. They’re left trying to explain an era to younger people like me, who love them but don’t remember.

Worse is when the person him/herself can’t remember.  In their clear moments, they’re terrified of a future in which they’ve lost their ability to recognize loved ones, or even themselves.

Whatever the reason, they’ve had enough of living. They’re tired. It’s time to go. 

~~

I’ve come to understand this: the problem isn’t theirs.

It isn’t just that they die, or that one or two may really want to.

The problem is mine. That even as The Grim One makes his plans for us all, I love my friends, and I’m never quite ready to let them go, no matter what their age.

I have to work on that.

Luckily, some old friends will still be around — with wisdom to share. Bless their hearts.

In Memory of Harry.

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56 Comments

Filed under A Good Home, Old Friends

56 responses to “Good Friends

  1. Love this post and I understand your thoughts and feelings. Loss always hurts. Unfortunately, it is not just old people who die. I have so many friends who never had a chance to get old when they died.

  2. Heartafire

    must agree with Cindy, it is easier to watch life takes it natural course than to see little ones that are ill. thank you for the fine post, I do get it.

  3. Cynthia, very heartfelt. I have lost so many good friends but often little things remind me of their presence. Never forgotten.

  4. I’m enjoying the company of my 88 year old mother this week so your post really hits home with me. She’s a hoot and I dread seeing any of that change. She does also. Maybe it won’t. I’ll go with that thought for now.

  5. Murtagh's Meadow

    Friends are one of life’s true gifts as you wisely point out Cynthia; and I think you are right – our older friends have that wisdom that we ourselves may lack. A wonderful thought-provoking post.

  6. I thank you Cynthia. This is the first blog that has given us an accolade. We also like to blog. Thant is how I tell my stories of how the world used to be. I also gave fiction romance a shot.
    We do love jokes and another thing is we love, to have house parties with cocktails and tidbits. Here in Florida we usually gather by the pool during the day and then cocktails around five.
    Our grand children, those of us that have them are a joy to us as well.

    I am happy to read that you admire old people. At 73 I have witnessed many things. Lived through many generations and fads.
    As far as dying your on that road the day you are born, it’s just that some roads are shorter than others. My hope is that the good Lord will take me in my sleep, I do not relish wearing diapers or loosing my marbles but I have no choice. Whatever the future I will have to endure it.
    If you would like to visit my blog and read some of my stories most of them true, please be my guest and I would love it if you leave a comment or two as well.
    I really enjoyed your post and I will be back. :o)

  7. An achingly-lovely tribute to your old friends, Cynthia, and a gift to all who read this. ❤

  8. A beautiful perspective Cynthia – and, I must reflect that all your older friends are also blessed to have you in their lives. Letting go our loved ones is so often hard – but it is part of the journey, we would be less than human if we let them go without grieving our loss.

    In the west we are so afraid of death and handle it by ignoring it – yet well over half the world sees it as a doorway to somewhere else only. And I do wonder if someone lives on in your heart and your memory are they really gone? There is more to life than just physical presence. I know for myself if I am quiet and peaceful I can sense those I love draw near and then I know they are not really ‘gone’. In memory of Harry ❤

    • I think you are right. People live in two dimensions: in the physical being, and in our hearts. I love this sentence and thank you for it:” I know for myself if I am quiet and peaceful I can sense those I love draw near and then I know they are not really ‘gone’.”

  9. Lovely reminder to us all. Older people are quite delighted to share their time and wisdom with us if we can see beyond our own blinkered ideas of age. Sorry to hear about your friend. 💐

  10. The wisdom that comes with age
    is a frustratingly double edged sword.

  11. A beautiful tribute to elderly friends and family, Cynthia, and really, to all those we care about. Keep living, laughing, and loving. “Each Day is a gift. That is why it is called The Present.” This quote was done in cross stitch, framed, and was in my mother-in-law’s kitchen for many years.

    You may have seen the movie “Broken Trail” starring Robert Duvall? There is one line that I remember well. “We’re all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth ’til death. We travel between the eternities.”

    For Harry:

  12. I grew up around many people who were far older than I was and my clients when I was a gardener were all mostly elderly, so I’ve lost quite a few in my time. I know just how you feel.

  13. Beautiful insight, Cynthia. A wonderful reminder to live out our days with passion and intention. When I was writing, “Sisters in the Son,” I interviewed over 500 multi-aged women and many communicated that we are losing that natural “older woman/younger woman” friendship. Both generations have so much to teach and learn from one another.

  14. I am sorry you have lost another friend Cynthia. This is such a thoughtful post; but then all your posts are thoughtful or give me reason to think. I have always had friends who are older than me and I enjoy their company, their memories, their experience.

  15. It is hard to lose people. But I think we carry them all with us. I like older people as well and think multi-generational friendship is just friendship–that connection that sparks and then when you share your lives there’s an extra from another time. I’m seeing it from the other side as well with younger friends. It’s just friendship itself that’s lovely whether there’s an age difference or not. I’m sorry you lost your friend Harry. I bet he felt loved.

  16. I miss old friends every day. I hold on to them/ the memory of them like grim death ( isn’t that an interesting expression?) And I would not wish you to let go of your elders (and betters 🙂 ) . I am not sure they want to be let go. I like the way our Maori people hold on to their dead. “The dead play an important role in Māori traditions. They are acknowledged at all gatherings, irrespective of the nature of the meeting, through karanga (calls), whaikōrero (speeches), song and tears. This remembering of those who have passed away serves to remind Māori of their whakapapa and their cultural imperatives – the importance of life, people and relationships.” http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/tangihanga-death-customs/page-1 Your blog, your books ensure the wisdom and love of your elders are kept alive and well. We all benefit. I don’t want to add another link, but roughly on the same subject, listen, if you have a moment, to Bright is the Ring of Words (Vaughn Williams, and R.L. Stevenson)

    • It was so good for me to hear about how the Maori hold on to their dead. And I agree that Cynthia’s memoirs serve that same purpose, preserve the wisdom and affection of those whom we have loved, and who cared for us. Such books keep their spirit alive and accessible to others.

  17. What a lovely tribute to Harry:). Truly. Takes bravery to love just about anyone these days, doesn’t it? Nothing is guaranteed. I love that you make the most of every minute with these friends and I’m sure they are grateful for your friendship.

  18. Aging is a double edged sword isn’t it. On one had, we’re usually more secure financially and get to do many things we’ve dreamt about in our youth. True, privileged if we can hang in there but then there’s all those potential pitfalls you mention.

    I used to be really afraid of death, but then I lost my Dad. Dad was my anchor in a home full of turmoil, my mother had issues. His memory always brings me comfort. One thing that’s very important to me, is to live with kindness. I know that’s my dad shining through. I usually ask myself in a difficult situations, “what would dad do”. Suddenly, the burdens are lighter and fears seems less daunting. Life is quite finite when you’re not religious. As comedian Craig Ferguson sometimes said, “this is not a dress rehearsal” True that. If I don’t live compassionate, caring and giving, I have only myself to blame. x Keep laughing with those friends of yours, sounds like they’re the best medicine.

  19. Cynthia, you’ve helped me understand my own tendency to click easier with the older people around me; like you said, they don’t beat about the bush because time is much shorter for them.
    Blessings as you grieve and remember special friends and precious conversations ~ Wendy

  20. What a lovely post, Cynthia. When, I wonder, does old begin?

  21. It is very difficult to lose a friend regardless of their age.

  22. One of my dearest friends is my soon to be 90 year old aunt. Her life experiences and struggles have had a major impact on how I live my life.
    Beautiful tribute to your friend, Harry.

  23. Beautifully written. Old people are treasures. Since we’ve moved back here to our small rural community a few of our oldest neighbors, people I’ve known all my life, have passed on. It’s strange to think of this place without them, and stranger still to see the mantle of “oldest resident” passing down to people I don’t even think of as old. My mother seems destined to inherit that title. Of course I hope she does.

    Not long after we moved here a woman in her mid 90’s died and I went to her funeral. She was a wonderful person who had lived here her whole life. I was surprised at how few people were there. I mentioned this to someone and they pointed out the obvious–at her age all of her friends were already gone. That really struck me and I realized that having good neighbors is not the same as having good friends. An old person experiences the loss of friends in ways we younger people do not (or at least not so regularly). A life without friends would be a lonely life. It’s great that you have friendships with much older people. Great for you and for them.

  24. You’ve had more than your fair share of losses lately, it seems. Harry’s death drew forth from you a beautiful meditation–a lovely tribute to him and to all the older people we love, and hate to lose.

  25. Cynthia, what a truly lovely post, and how right you are. As we get older, we come to realize how much “old” people know and have experienced and how much they have to share. How wonderful that you have as many older friends as you do and are sharing the enjoyment of life with them. When I think of the amazing stories my Nana (having been born in 1876) and great Aunt Marie could have told me had I asked … but I was young, and like so many young people, involved in my oh-so-busy life. Your post is a reminder to not lose touch. BTW, there’s a song about exactly this by John Prine called “Hello in There.” 🙂

  26. Such a poignant post and so true. Since semi retiring, I belong to a CFUW club and many of the members are older than me. When you take the time to listen to their life experiences it always blows me away…someday soon that will be us. Unfortunately it’s not just older friends who leave us as cancer seems to be eating away at so many of us too.

  27. Writing memoir is a way of giving the dead space in our hearts. As you have done and continue to do.

  28. A very special post Cynthia – as you honor the lives and memories. The elderly that I’ve known grew more in my eyes each time I listened to their quiet snippets of wisdom and saw the life they led. Very sad when we lose an old friend.

  29. Bless you .. It is our problem, life seems so empty without these special people. Thank you dear Cynthia

  30. I am slowly making headway with my impatience with a long-term friend. I realised I had begun to avoid popping over as I could never tell how long a visit would turn out… but I am working on it. I need to remember that this is the woman who calmed me as I knocked on her door, in tears, with my non-sleeping 6-month old in my arms and feeling ready to give her away. Your post will remind me to cherish that friendship.

  31. Beautiful post, Cynthia, and a lovely tribute. I can relate – I love old people, have some friends who are older than me, and my heart is broken every time one of them leaves this world.

  32. Je partage tes réflexions. Les personnes agées ont acquis de la sagesse et il est bénéfique pour nous d’être en leur compagnie et d’autre part, on n’est jamais prêt à les laisser partir

  33. A very beautiful and heartfelt post Cynthia. Good friendships have no age. 🙂

  34. This is a beautiful post and great tribute to the closest of your friends. I find such joy in listening to any story an elderly person chooses to share with me. I am fascinated by “how the way things were”.

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